May 3, 2018 Press Release

Watchdog Group Files Lawsuit for HHS Records
Requests follow several moves by the Office for Civil Rights that will block people from accessing health care

05.03.18 – Today Equity Forward filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking records from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) amid reports that OCR Director Roger Severino is working to rewrite a federal rule that protects transgender people from discrimination in health care.

The rule, put in place during the Obama administration, was designed to ensure that the Affordable Care Act’s provision that protects against sex discrimination was applied in the case of gender identity, as well. Additionally, Equity Forward is concerned that OCR is seeking to grant cover to health care providers who will refuse care or referrals to women seeking reproductive health care services such as birth control, that is used by nearly all sexually active women.

The lawsuit pertains to seven Freedom of Information Act requests submitted by Equity Forward to HHS in January 2018. Many of these requests seek communications and records relating to OCR’s newly formed Conscience and Religious Freedom Division that was created to empower healthcare workers who want to discriminate against LGBTQ patients, those seeking abortions, and others. Prior to HHS, OCR director Severino spent his career advocating for those who wish to tout “religious liberty” as a means of discrimination, once penning a paper titled “Or For Poorer? How Same-Sex Marriage Threatens Religious Liberty,” so it is no surprise that as a political appointee of the Trump Administration he is now imposing his radical views on patients’ fundamental right to healthcare.

Equity Forward executive director Mary Alice Carter stated, “All people should have access to health care free from discrimination. When someone is denied care based on their gender identity, it puts their lives at risk. Health care should be driven by science, evidence and above all, compassion. We are seeking information on how this division was formed and who is influencing these dangerous policies.”

To read the complaint, here.