by Bob Gatty.
In another move that demonstrates the powerful influence of the religious right on its policies, the Trump administration is ditching Obama-era actions aimed at protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination.
In recent months, there have been a multitude of actions that contradict Trump’s many 2016 campaign promises to support LGBT causes. Tweeted Trump in June 2016, “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.”
However, as usual in this era of Donald Trump, actions speak louder than words. Much louder.
According to this article from Politico, “The nation’s health department is taking steps to dismantle LGBT health initiatives, as political appointees have halted or rolled back regulations intended to protect LGBT workers and patients, removed LGBT-friendly language from documents and reassigned the senior adviser dedicated to LGBT health.”
The article points out that “the sharp reversal from Obama-era policies carries implications for a population that’s been historically vulnerable to discrimination in health care settings, say LGBT health advocates. A Health Affairs study last year found that many LGBT individuals have less access to care than heterosexuals; in a Harvard-Robert Wood Johnson-NPR survey one in six LGBT individuals reported experiencing discrimination from doctors or at a clinic.”
Trump wasted no time in pandering to the anti-LGBT religious right, led in his administration by Vice President Mike Pence. Soon after Trump took office, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) moved to change the agency’s LGBT-related health data collection, which provides information about health status and discrimination.
“HHS originally tried to claim, falsely, that there were ‘no changes’ in the program, but it was later discovered that, indeed, there were changes,” said Stefan Varner, chair of the Horry County Democratic LGBT Committee. “They discontinued counting the LGBT elderly the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. These are older folks have managed to survive decades of oppression and physical abuse, and now our religious-right controlled government wants to beat them down some more.”
The change in data collection is an important and disturbing development, said Varney, who explained that counting helps to determine health status of various societal segments, and thus it helps to determine the funding needed to maintain good overall public health.
Moreover, last fall HHS released its Strategic Plan for 2018-2022, erasing all mentions of the LGBTQ population and their unique health needs. The plan erases references of minority communities, including the LGBTQ population, mentions “faith” or “faith-based” organizations more than 40 times (as opposed to the three references in the Obama administration’s plan) and uses anti-abortion language.
Last month HHS established a new religious liberty division to defend health workers who have religious objections to treating LGBT patients, a move that has drawn sharp criticism from LGBT advocates.
Politico quoted Kellan Baker, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health who worked with HHS on LGBT issues for nearly a decade, who said “It’s only a matter of time before all the gains made under the Obama administration are reversed under the Trump administration, for purposes that have nothing to do with public health and have everything to do with politics.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s proposed federal budget for 2019 proposes cutting millions of dollars from programs helping to prevent and treat illnesses in the U.S. The reductions included cutting $40 million from the Center for Disease Control and other prevention programs, and $26 million from the federal housing program for sick and disabled Americans, among other cuts.
“If Trump doesn’t care about LGBT individuals facing discriminatory governmental practices and policies, then he obviously he does not realize the importance of monitoring and keeping separate segments of the American population healthy as the most medically-effective and cost-effective methods of maintaining good health for the entire American population,” said Varner. “When Trump defunds the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), for example, does he not comprehend that our children live in the world among us and may likely spread illnesses to adults and others? And if we do not even count those children, if we do not monitor them to see just how successfully or unsuccessfully theirs or any group’s healthcare status really is, then we are unable to affect their status in a positive way.”
The same rationale, said Varner, applies to LGBT or any other group of citizens.
“We have made significant strides in the practice of medicine in the USA such that we may avoid sickness and death to greater degrees,” Varner said. “Why would President Trump want to turn the clock back on us? Perhaps that’s just another way he’s Making America Great Again.”