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Monday, January 21, 2019

U.S. Dept. Health and Human Services advances culture of life through conscience protections

Sec. Azar
On the day of the annual March for Life, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Alex Azar released a statement on the importance of protecting life in recognition of this being his first March as Secretary of HHS:
“Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration. At HHS, through our work in healthcare, human services, public health, and biomedical science, we are committed to this effort. This means not just protecting human life in the administration of our programs, but also respecting the conscience rights of those who participate in HHS-funded programs. Under President Trump, HHS will continue to advance science and improve the health of Amer­icans while protecting our most fundamental freedoms: the right to life and the right of conscience.”
HHS also released two new policies that to protect life and conscience:

1.       Enforcing Weldon & Coats-Snowe Amendments: This week, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) notified the State of California that its law requiring pro-life pregnancy resource centers to refer clients for abortions, by posting notices about free or low-cost family planning services and abortion, violated the Weldon and Coats-Snowe Amendments. This is the first time that any state has been found in violation of these laws, reflecting HHS’s heightened commitment to enforcing conscience protection statutes.
2.       Ensuring Access to Policies without Abortion Coverage: This week, HHS issued a proposed rule to require that insurance companies that offer ACA plans covering abortions of pregnancies that do not threaten the life of the mother or result from rape or incest must also offer at least one identical plan in the same geographic area that does not cover these abortions. (The rule would not apply in states with abortion coverage mandates.) 

For further reading:


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Presidential Proclamation on Religious Freedom Day

Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 15, 2019
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY, 2019
 - - - - - -

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

     On Religious Freedom Day, we celebrate our Nation's long‑standing commitment to freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess one's own faith.  The right to religious freedom is innate to the dignity of every human person and is foundational to the pursuit of truth.

     The Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth shared an experience common to many of America's first settlers: they had fled their home countries to escape religious persecution.  Aware of this history, our Nation's Founding Fathers readily understood that a just government must respect the deep yearning for truth and openness to the transcendent that are part of the human spirit.  For this reason, from the beginning, our constitutional republic has endeavored to protect a robust understanding of religious freedom.  On January 16, 1786, Virginia enacted the Statute for Religious Freedom to protect the right of individual conscience and religious exercise and to prohibit the compulsory support of any church.  Authored by Thomas Jefferson, the statute set forth the principle that religious liberty is an inherent right and not a gift of the state.  Jefferson's statute served as the inspiration and model for the legal architecture of the conscience protections in the First Amendment, drafted by James Madison just a few years later.

     Unfortunately, the fundamental human right to religious freedom is under attack.  Efforts to circumscribe religious freedom -- or to separate it from adjoining civil liberties, like property rights or free speech -- are on the rise.  Over time, legislative and political attacks on religious freedom have given way to actual violence.  Last October, we witnessed a horrific attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania -- the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in our Nation's history.  Tragically, attacks on people of faith and their houses of worship have increased in frequency in recent years.

     My Administration is taking action to protect religious liberty and to seek justice against those who seek to abridge it.  The Department of Justice is aggressively prosecuting those who use violence or threats to interfere with the religious freedom of their fellow Americans.  In January of 2018, the Justice Department announced a religious liberty update to the Justice Manual, raising the profile of religious liberty cases.  Also in January of 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services undertook major policy changes to protect religious freedom, including forming a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the Department's Office for Civil Rights and proposing a comprehensive new conscience protection regulation to reinvigorate enforcement of religious freedom laws within existing health care programs.

     Around the globe today, people are being persecuted for their faith by authoritarian dictatorships, terrorist groups, and other intolerant individuals.  To address this tragic reality, last July, at my request, the Secretary of State convened the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.  We are listening to the voices of those risking their lives for their religious beliefs, and we are listening to the families of people who have died fighting for their fundamental right of conscience.

     Our Nation was founded on the premise that a just government abides by the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God."  As the Founders recognized, the Constitution protects religious freedom to secure the rights endowed to man by his very nature.  On this day, we recognize this history and affirm our commitment to the preservation of religious freedom. 

     NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 16, 2019, as Religious Freedom Day.  I call on all Americans to commemorate this day with events and activities that remind us of our shared heritage of religious liberty and that teach us how to secure this blessing both at home and around the world.

     IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand nineteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-third.

DONALD J. TRUMP
###
The White House · 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW · Washington, DC 20500-0003 · USA · 202-456-1111
Text also available here.

Friday, January 4, 2019

U.S. House votes to overturn pro-life policies

On Jan. 3, the House passed H.R. 21, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 by a vote of 241 - 190. 234 Democratic Members and 7 Republican Members (Fitzpatrick, Hurd, Katko, King (NY), Stefanik, Upton, Walden) voted in support of the bill. 190 Republicans voted against the bill. 2 Members did not vote.

H.R. 21 reverses Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance (PLGHA) (expanded Mexico City Policy), requiring foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) receiving global health assistance grant money to not perform or actively promote abortion. It appropriates not less than $37.5 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and it appropriates not less than $595 million for international family planning/reproductive health programs.

Republicans offered a Motion to Recommit (MTR) on H.R. 21. The MTR (attached) would have reinstated PLGHA, and it would have stricken funding for UNFPA. The MTR failed by a vote of 199 – 232. 197 Republicans and 2 Democrats (Lipinski, Peterson) voted in support of the MTR. 232 Democrats voted against the MTR.  2 Members did not vote.

Below are statements from Members during tonight’s floor debate on H.R. 21 and the MTR:


Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-TX) offers pro-life MTR
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) defends pro-life MTR

Friday, December 7, 2018

Essay 12: Can transgender activism silence science?


Drastic? "The Trump administration is
considering narrowly defining gender
as a biological, immutable condition
determined by genitalia at birth...."
Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash
The New York Times recently published apparently leaked information about plans at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to adjust a 2016 transgender mandate. The adjustment involves reverting to the original Congressional statutory meaning of "sex discrimination" as discrimination based on biological sex.
Under the hyperbolical headline, "Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration," the "news" story in the Times opined,
"The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a government-wide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law."[1]
A TIME magazine article quoted Diana Flynn, litigation director for Lambda Legal: 
"If this administration wants to try and turn back the clock by moving ahead with its own legally frivolous and scientifically unsupportable definition of sex, we will be there to meet that challenge."[2]
The supposedly radical and "legally frivolous and scientifically unsupportable definition of sex" that LGBT activists are protesting and HHS is considering is this: Male and female sex are biological facts determined by chromosomes.
Following the incendiary tone of the Times, the Associated Press headlined its story, "Fury Over Reported Federal Plan Targeting Transgender People." The AP wrote that "LGBT leaders across the U.S. reacted with fury" and reported that "activist leaders, speaking amid posters reading '#Won'tBeErased', later addressed a protest rally outside the White House."[3]
The rhetoric of activists and their media allies exceeds hyperbole. HHS is not remotely capable or desirous of defining anyone out of existence. HHS is simply bound to follow the law as it is written by Congress--not as imagined or wished by activists and ideologues.
To that end, HHS has been working on a new rule to correct a radical regulatory overreach involving a radical misconstrual of the clear intent of Congress in laws concerning "sex discrimination." Prodding that correction is a December 31, 2016 federal court ruling in favor of the Christian Medical Association and others, including five states, who had sued HHS to halt an Obama transgender mandate regulation that violated both medical judgment and religious freedom.

Leapfrogging a political agenda over science and religion

The previous administration asserted that by "sex discrimination"
Congress must have meant something well beyond
biologically male and female.
Photo by Kevin Gent on Unsplash
In the waning weeks of their power, the previous administration threw caution and medical research to the wind with a reckless regulation that leapfrogged a political agenda over sound science. Were it not for the federal court's preliminary injunction, doctors and health organizations nationwide today would be forced to comply with a coercive transgender mandate.
In May 2016, HHS issued a new rule[4] that would require physicians and hospitals to perform potentially harmful transgender medical procedures whether or not those procedures fulfilled patients’ best interests according to medical judgment.
To arrive at that conclusion, first the administration reinterpreted decades-old law prohibiting sex discrimination (such as in boys' versus girls' sports in schools) as applying to "gender identity issues." Congress, however, had given no evidence when passing the anti-discrimination law of envisioning any such radical application.
Having redefined the law to suit an ideological agenda, HHS officials then moved to eliminate doctors’ medical judgment, requiring every health professional and institution to perform potentially harmful transgender medical procedures do or else be deemed guilty of “discrimination” and subject to face serious penalties.

Ideology trumps freedom of conscience and speech

HHS: "A covered entity may not deny or limit health services."
Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash
Not satisfied with mandating that health professionals violate their medical judgment, HHS officials went a step further, dictating even the speech of health professionals:
"For example, a provider’s persistent and intentional refusal to use a transgender individual’s preferred name and pronoun and insistence on using those corresponding to the individual’s sex assigned at birth constitutes illegal sex discrimination if such conduct is sufficiently serious to create a hostile environment" [emphasis added].[5]
Other examples of the coercive nature of the new rule, quoted from the text of the regulation and accompanying commentary by HHS officials, include (emphases in italics are added and my comments are bracketed):
·         "…a covered entity may not deny or limit health services [e.g., hormone treatments or hysterectomies] that are ordinarily or exclusively available to individuals of one sex, to a transgender individual based on the fact that the individual's sex assigned at birth, gender identity, or gender otherwise recorded is different from the one to which such health services are ordinarily or exclusively available."
·         "We believe that it is important to ensure that civil rights protections are extended to transgender individuals to afford them equal access to health coverage, including for health services related to gender transition."
·         "…an exclusion or limitation [that] systematically denies services and treatments for transgender individuals is prohibited discrimination" [e.g., a policy declining to do transgender surgeries on children].

Rule ignores research-based medical caution

From a medical perspective, the brash new rule flew in the face of the administration's own medical board which, based upon medical research, had advised against requiring coverage of gender transition surgical procedures under Medicare and Medicaid.
As reported in connection with the Christian Medical Association's successful lawsuit to stop the transgender mandate,
Along with physical impacts like heart conditions, increased cancer risk, and loss of bone density, the peer-reviewed longitudinal studies of children with gender dysphoria (that HHS accepted as valid) found that fewer than 1-in-4 children referred for gender dysphoria continued to experience that condition into adulthood. Some grew out of it, but many of the children ended up realizing that they were not transgender but instead gay or lesbian.[6]

Prioritizing ideology precludes reasonable accommodation of dissent

"[We] decline to adopt a blanket
religious exemption...."
HHS officials refused pleas by faith-based organizations, submitted during the rule's public comment period, for specific religious freedom exemptions from the transgender mandate:
"[We] decline to adopt a blanket religious exemption in the final rule as any religious concerns are appropriately addressed pursuant to pre-existing laws such as RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] and provider conscience laws."[7]
Existing law is only as good as its enforcement. Unfortunately, victims of illegal discrimination because of their religious beliefs could only depend for relief upon the Office of Civil Rights at HHS—the very agency that declined to provide explicit religious freedom exemptions.

Court intervenes on behalf of Christian Medical Association and others

Faced with a frontal assault on the conscience freedoms and medical judgment of its over 19,000 members, the nonprofit Christian Medical Association teamed up with the Franciscan Alliance health organization and the states of Texas, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kentucky and Kansas to file suit in federal court to stop the madness. Becket, which successfully defended the Little Sisters of the Poor in a landmark Supreme Court case against the Obamacare contraceptives mandate, represented the health organizations in federal court.
CMA court case ruling: "Congress intended to
prohibit sex discrimination on the basis of
the biological differences between males and females."
Thankfully, the federal court agreed with the plaintiffs and intervened to issue a preliminary nationwide injunction to stop implementation of the mandate.[8]
In his ruling handed down on December 31, 2016, U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor observed,
"[The Christian Medical Association's] approved Ethics Statement affirms the 'obligation of Christian healthcare professionals to care for patients struggling with gender identity with sensitivity and compassion' but states clear opposition to medical assistance with gender transition and abortion. CMA members treat transgender individuals for health issues ranging from the common cold to cancer, and several members have already received requests for transition-related procedures that they cannot provide without violating their religious beliefs."
Judge O'Connor also addressed the issue of expanding Congress's intent for the statutory (Title IX) definition of "sex discrimination":
"It is also clear from Title IX’s text, structure, and purpose that Congress intended to prohibit sex discrimination on the basis of the biological differences between males and females."
The federal court concluded that "the Rule imposes a substantial burden on Private Plaintiffs’ religious exercise," noting that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, "the government bears the burden to show the Rule satisfies strict scrutiny—i.e., 'demonstrate that the application of the burden to the person represents the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling interest.'"
The court ruled in favor of CMA and the other plaintiffs and issued a nationwide preliminary injunction to stop the coercive transgender mandate:
"Defendants [HHS] are hereby enjoined from enforcing the Rule’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of gender identity or termination of pregnancy."
Since that decision, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has assured the court and plaintiffs that it is working to amend the Obama administration's rule that triggered the lawsuit. Publication of a new rule is considered imminent.


End Notes

[1] ‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration," New York Times, October 21, 2018.
[2] "'I'm Protecting Everybody,' President Trump Says After Reports His Administration Wants to Strip Transgender Protections," TIME magazine, October 22, 2018. Accessed online November 1, 2018 at http://time.com/5431443/donald-trump-transgender-protections/.
[3] "Fury Over Reported Federal Plan Targeting Transgender People," The Associated Press, October. 22, 2018. Accessed online October 24, 2018 at https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2018/10/22/us/politics/ap-us-transgender-rights-.html.
[4] "Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities Proposed Rule, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act," U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, May 18, 2016. Accessed online September 4, 2018 at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/05/18/2016-11458/nondiscrimination-in-health-programs-and-activities.
[5] Department of Health and Human Services, p. 31406.
[6] www.transgendermandate.org, Becket Law, accessed August 17, 2018.
[7] "Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities," Department of Health and Human Services, 45 CFR Part 92 RIN 0945–AA02, p. 31435.
[8] See "Court strikes down harmful transgender mandate," Becket Law, https://www.becketlaw.org/media/court-strikes-harmful-transgender-mandate/. Accessed August 17, 2018.

Monday, November 5, 2018

When transgender ideology drives research


Even researchers who support transgenderism in adults experience attacks when raising researched concerns about children transitioning from one sex to another.
Dr. Debra Soh
In a Los Angeles Times commentary entitled, "Are gender feminists and transgender activists undermining science?," sexologist and Playboy.com contributor Dr. Debra Soh writes,
"Currently available research literature — including four studies published in the last nine years — suggests that 61% to 88% of gender dysphoric children will desist and grow up to be gay adults. (Or, in my case, a straight adult). They won't continue to identify as the opposite sex in adulthood. In one study of 139 gender dysphoric boys, 122 (88%) of the boys desisted. While transitioning can be beneficial for transgender adults, it therefore doesn't make sense to treat trans children in the same way.
"Nevertheless, transgender activists and their allies have branded desistance as a "myth," and those who suggest otherwise are called bigots or, dismissively, trolls.
"Distortion of science hinders progress. When gender feminists start refuting basic biology, people stop listening, and the larger point about equality is lost.
"But ignoring the science around desistance has serious consequences; it means some transgender children will needlessly undergo biomedical interventions, such as hormone treatments.
"…[I]t's never a good idea to dismiss scientific nuances in the name of a compelling argument or an honorable cause. We must allow science to speak for itself."[1]
Dr. Soh eventually left academia because it was no longer a place to pursue and proclaim truth. In a video interview, she noted,
"As to my decision to leave academia, In the last two years I had noticed that things were starting to go a bit weird, in terms of the climate."[2]
Her concern increased when media reports kept heralding the supposedly wonderful benefits to children of transitioning from one sex to another, despite the fact that scientific research finds otherwise. Dr. Soh explains,
"Research shows that the majority of kids that are gender dysphoric actually outgrow their feelings. So it makes sense for them to wait—not to transition at a young age. So I wanted to write a mainstream piece about this.
"And there's been a very long history between transgender activists and sex researchers—a very ugly history of activists going after sex researchers if they don't like what someone's study says or what they say publicly.
"So I thought about it for a long time. I wrote the piece and I sat on it for probably about six months. I wasn't sure if I wanted to put it out.
"I asked a bunch of colleagues and my mentors, and they all said, 'You know what, the science is solid, but you know what's going to happen if you do put this out.
"And at the time, I wanted to stay in academia, and I said, 'Shall I wait until I get tenure?' And everyone told me, 'Even if you have tenure, nowadays it's not a good protector. You can still lose your job.'
"So I decided, actually, that I couldn't stay quiet. And I thought, 'I'm not going to stay in an environment where I can't speak the truth and I can't even pursue questions that are meaningful anymore because I have to worry about who's going to get mad, and then I'm going to lose my money—my funding—and I'm going to lose my job.
"So that piece went out. It's called, 'Why Transgender Kids Should Wait to Transition.'[3]"And then I haven't looked back since."[4]




[1] Debra W. Soh, "Are gender feminists and transgender activists undermining science?" Los Angeles Times, February 10, 2017. Accessed online October 24, 2018 at http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-soh-trans-feminism-anti-science-20170210-story.html.
[2] The Rubin Report interview with Debra Soh, "Sex Research, Asian Discrimination, and #MeToo (Debra Soh Full Interview), August 10, 2018. Accessed online October 24, 2018 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkhDZMwR9eQ.
[3] Debra Soh, Ph.D., "Why Transgender Kids Should Wait to Transition," Pacific Standard, September 1, 2015, accessed online October 24, 2018 at https://psmag.com/social-justice/why-transgender-kids-should-wait-to-transition. Also reprinted at Wall Street Journal, September 4, 2015 at https://www.wsj.com/articles/notable-quotable-transgender-children-1441406728, accessed October 24, 2018.
[4] The Rubin Report interview with Debra Soh, "Sex Research, Asian Discrimination, and #MeToo (Debra Soh Full Interview), August 10, 2018. Accessed online October 24, 2018 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkhDZMwR9eQ.