May 7, 2024 // National

Bishop Rhoades: Health Care ‘Must Be Grounded in Truth’

In a statement released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Tuesday, April 30, Bishop Rhoades spoke out about new health care regulations from the Biden administration that will restore Obama-era protections for patients who identify as transgender.

On Friday, April 26, officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the final regulations implementing the nondiscrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which they say seek to expand civil rights protections for patients by prohibiting health care providers and insurers that receive federal funding from discriminating against patients who seek treatment related to their gender identity or sexual orientation. The officials with HHS also said the regulations would respect religious freedom.

“Health care that truly heals must be grounded in truth,” said Bishop Rhoades, who was speaking in his role as Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty. By including “sexual orientation and gender identity” in the definition of “sex,” the final regulations generally require health care workers to perform “gender transition” procedures in the name of nondiscrimination. At the same time, the regulations make modest improvements to the proposed regulations’ protections for the exercise of conscience, religious belief, and clinical judgment.

A photo illustration shows a general practitioner with a stethoscope. In interviews with OSV News, Catholic labor advocates and medical ethicists said that all parties to labor disputes in health care make plans to avoid harm to patients, who have a right to health care just as health care workers have a right to just compensation. (OSV News photo/Regis Duvignau, Reuters)

Bishop Rhoades added: “The human right to health care flows from the sanctity of human life and the dignity that belongs to all human persons, who are made in the image of God. The same core beliefs about human dignity and the wisdom of God’s design that motivate Catholics to care for the sick also shape our convictions about care for preborn children and the immutable nature of the human person. These commitments are inseparable.”

He continued: “We appreciate that the final rule does not attempt to impose a mandate with regard to abortion. These regulations, however, advance an ideological view of sex that, as the Holy See has noted, denies the most beautiful and most powerful difference that exists between living beings: sexual difference. I pray that health care workers will embrace the truth about the human person, a truth reflected in Catholic teaching, and that HHS will not substitute its judgment for their own.”

Spokespersons for HHS argued the expansion would protect LGBTQ+ patients while also respecting federal protections for religious freedom and conscience.

“Today’s rule is a giant step forward for this country toward a more equitable and inclusive health care system, and [it] means that Americans across the country now have a clear way to act on their rights against discrimination when they go to the doctor, talk with their health plan, or engage with health programs run by HHS,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

But Julie Marie Blake, Senior Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement the regulation “is a vast overreach that turns medicine upside-down.”

“Congress never voted to redefine sex in the Affordable Care Act to add gender identity,” Blake said. “The rule harms families and children by promoting dangerous, life-altering ‘gender-transition’ procedures that remove healthy body parts or block puberty. The Biden administration’s egregious rule would alter the United States’ medical system for the worst.”

Earlier in April, the Department of Education also released its finalized regulations under Title IX, the 1972 federal civil rights law requiring women and girls have equal access and treatment in education and athletics. Department spokespersons argued the new regulations, which take effect on August 1, broaden the rules governing educational institutions that receive federal funding to ensure that no person experiences sex discrimination – based on sex stereotypes, sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics – including sex-based harassment or sexual violence at such institutions.

Some attorneys general, including Mississippi’s Lynn Fitch, filed suit to challenge the new regulation. They said in an April 29 press release that broadening the scope of the law could dilute its intended purpose of protecting women’s athletics.

In guidance on health care policy and practices issued in 2023, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine opposed interventions that “involve the use of surgical or chemical techniques that aim to exchange the sex characteristics of a patient’s body for those of the opposite sex or for simulations thereof.” It continued: “Any technological intervention that does not accord with the fundamental order of the human person as a unity of body and soul, including the sexual difference inscribed in the body, ultimately does not help but, rather, harms the human person.”

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