The following comes from a November 11 Catholic News Agency article by Matt Hadro:
Proposed federal anti-discrimination rules could threaten the religious liberty of health care providers and also infringe on the privacy of patients, lawyers for the U.S. Catholic Bishops have warned.
“Everyone should have access to health care and health coverage,” stated the general counsel and associate general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Anthony Picarello and Michael Moses, respectively, in comments submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services over the proposed rule “Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities.”
However, they cautioned, the rule expands the definition of sex discrimination far beyond existing law, to a point where it is “likely” to “infringe upon the religious and moral convictions of health care providers, insurers, and other stakeholders.”
The proposed rule, introduced in September by the Department of Health and Human Services, is a set of regulations that implement and clarify an existing provision of the Affordable Care Act.
In a letter to the HHS Office of Civil Rights, lawyers for the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference argued that where the proposed regulations prohibit “discrimination on the basis of termination of pregnancy,” this could be interpreted “incorrectly” as an abortion access mandate for health care providers and insurers.
Another concern the letter’s authors presented is that the regulations mandate health care providers and insurers to cover services for “gender transition.” Such providers might include “a religiously-affiliated hospital or nursing home that participates in Medicaid,” and one that religiously objects to providing for such services.
Also, the regulations do not include an exemption for religious organizations who object to providing certain medical services or coverage under the rule, they added.
There is a legal basis for this, they explained. The health care law’s original anti-discrimination provision was written on the “grounds” of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. Title IX prohibits discrimination in a number of areas including race and sex, but it includes an exemption for religiously-affiliated educational institutions in cases of sex discrimination.
So where a religiously-affiliated organization would not accommodate an individual’s request on basis of sex because the request “would not be consistent with [their] religious tenets,” they would qualify for an exemption under Title IX. Thus, the regulations must include at the very least a similar exemption for a religious organization.