Central PA's LGBT News Source
Fourteen parties filed suit May 28 challenging the “Denial of Care” Rule issued earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The controversial rule allows health care workers – doctors, nurses, EMTs, administrators and clerical staff – to deny medical treatment and services to patients because of personal religious or moral beliefs. Health care facilities that do not comply risk losing federal funding.
“The problem for many regions of the second largest state – including Harrisburg-Lancaster-York and Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton - is that if too many health care providers and institutions decide to deny care there will be even fewer places for the LGBT community and women seeking reproductive services and abortion services to go,” Adrian Shanker tells Central Voice. Shanker is executive director, Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, located in Allentown.
The Allentown center and Philadelphia’s Mazzoni Center are two of 14 plaintiffs involved in the legal challenge. In all, there are five doctors, eight organizations, and one county. The county is California’s Santa Clara County, that state’s second largest provider of public health care. The lawsuit (County of Santa Clara vs. HHS) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
The new regulation invites health care workers – doctors, nurses, EMTs, administrators and clerical staff – to deny medical treatment and services to patients because of personal religious or moral beliefs. A news release from the 14 plaintiffs states: “The regulation will cause mass confusion among health care providers and is completely infeasible to implement. As a result, health care facilities may do away with reproductive and LGBTQ services altogether, leaving millions without access to critical health care.”
Regarding access to care, Shanker, whose center coordinates a biannual survey in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Health and Human Services Department, tells Central Voice “We already know from surveys that 50% of LGBT respondents are afraid to approach health care professionals for fear of rejection or discrimination.”
For transgender survey respondents, the numbers are worse.
Shanker says, “75% of the trans people who answered our survey have those same fears.”
"Like all Americans, LGBT people deserve high-quality health care. Unfortunately, the LGBT community experiences challenges when it comes to accessing high-quality health care, leading to significant health disparities and worsened health outcomes,” Shanker points out.
In nearby Washington, DC, Whitman-Walker Health CEO Naseema Safi says, “We at Whitman-Walker Health stand for dignity, affirmation and respect in healthcare.” She notes that “The language within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ‘Denial-of-Care’ rule has left us with only one clear option, and that was to advocate for access to health care. This is not a new position for Whitman-Walker. This is, in fact, the kind of discrimination that led to our founding.”
The complaint is available here.