The Trump administration new force-birther, anti-LGBTQ healthcare rule is now in effect. The rule allows health workers to refuse treatment to anyone if their “religious” beliefs are in conflict with the necessary care. The administration is basing the necessity of this rule on polling that’s a decade old conducted by none other than Kellyanne Conway for anti-abortion doctors.
Conway’s polling, done for the Christian Medical and Dental Associations in 2009 is at the core of the justification for this rule, along with another she did in 2011. It’s cited a dozen times in the 440-page rule, more than any other study. The 2009 survey is particularly ridiculous—it was conducted online among a group of “self-selected members of Christian medical associations.” Conway herself noted in the polling memo that the results were “not intended to be representative of the entire medical profession.” And yet this “poll” is what the new rule is most heavily relying upon.
It wasn’t only highly selective, it’s old. Healthcare experts note that both of these surveys were done well before the Affordable Care Act reshaped the system and that the conclusions of those surveys have been disproven by reality. The 2011 survey concluded that there would be fewer healthcare workers in a decade if then-President Barack Obama eliminated the so-called “conscience protection” of the George W. Bush era. That didn’t happen. In fact, there are 400,000 additional professionals working in physicians’ offices since 2011.
In fact, as Politico reports some of the very doctors who appeared at a press conference with Conway in 2009 insisting their religious beliefs had to be respected and threatened to quit over it are still on the job. That might be because those physicians were more interested in fighting Obama than anything else. It’s also probably because few if any of these doctors would ever be called upon to do an abortion or a gender-reassignment surgery in the first place.
That doesn’t mean it’s not a serious threat to women and the LGBTQ community, says Rosie Phillips Davis, president of the American Psychological Association. She emphasizes that religious rights of healthcare workers are “already enshrined in law and needs not be expanded,” but that they would be newly empowered to refuse routine care to LGBTQ patients. “This so-called ‘conscience rule’ is flatly unconscionable,” she added. The American Medical Association agrees, with president Barbara McAneny stating “While we support the legitimate conscience rights of individual health care professionals, the exercise of these rights must be balanced against the fundamental obligations of the medical profession to protect the well-being of patients.”
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