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HHS removes sex discrimination prohibition language from civil rights office website

Sunlight Foundation: “The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has altered messaging on its website related to Section 1557, the provision of the Affordable Care Act prohibiting discrimination, including sex discrimination. Advocates and experts say the changes to informational webpages about Section 1557, detailed in the latest Web Integrity Project report, could foreshadow a shift in policy regarding the prohibition of sex discrimination as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) prepares to release new regulations as soon as this month. The report documents changes in language pertaining to sex discrimination on the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) website, first discovered by staff at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), as well as the reduction in access to training materials about Section 1557 for health and healthcare professionals. NWLC, which released a fact sheet about Section 1557, has filed a series of still-pending FOIA requests for information about why these changes were made to the website. Section 1557 has been the focus of a long-running legal battle over whether OCR, the office responsible for enforcing regulations stemming from 1557, can respond to complaints of discrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming individuals. HHS had determined that the text of Section 1557 allowed it to prohibit all forms of sex discrimination, including discrimination based on an individual’s sex, pregnancy, gender identity, and sex stereotyping, and it put in place these Section 1557 regulations to do so. HHS’s ability to implement the Section 1557 regulations, however, was limited after a lawsuit by religiously affiliated healthcare providers argued that they would “require them to perform and provide insurance coverage for gender transitions and abortions,” according to court records. In December of 2016, the federal court in Texas hearing the case issued a nationwide preliminary injunction that prevents OCR from enforcing Section 1557 protections against discrimination based on gender identity and termination of pregnancy, without affecting protections against other forms of sex discrimination…” [h/t Pte Weiss]

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