We’ve all seen those movies. Someone is alone at night. They hear a noise, but just dismiss it as their imagination. And then, boom! The killer/monster strikes, and we the audience, who knew all along, have all of our fears validated. Well, the Trump Administration is creating a new section of the Health and Human Services Department titled “The Conscience and Religious Freedom” division. You may want to stop and go get some popcorn, because this thing is a real monster for women and the LGBTQIA+ community. It could wind up being a killer as well.
Many supporters of this legislation have stated their objections to providing patients contraception and performing abortions, on the basis of their moral/religious grounds. This new division is designed to provide legal protections to those medical professionals who refuse to perform these and other services that they claim conflict with their values. Apparently, these same folks don’t see the irony in opposing both abortion and contraception, but I digress. This poses a great many dangers for women, especially those who have limited access to medical care. Imagine a teen seeking contraception and being not only turned down by her medical providers, but ostracized by them as well. Or, a woman exploring the possibility of having an abortion, only to be denied, handed Biblically-influenced pamphlets denouncing abortion, and describing her personal place in Hell should she go through with the procedure. Not farfetched under this administration, now is it? In short, women need these services, and will resort to alternative measures should they have no other options. Before Roe v. Wade, many women died in botched abortions. This sentiment is shared by Dana Singiser, the vice president of government affairs for Planned Parenthood as she states, “This will impose a broad religious refusal policy that will allow individuals and institutions to deny basic care for women and transgender people. We know from experience that denial of care compromises care,”. This current presidential administration either refuses to recognize this danger, or is fully aware of the cost in lives that this policy will render. The former is inexcusable, the latter is downright insidious.
Oh, but wait! Little Donnie and Mikey have special plans for us LGBTQIA+ folks as well. The transgender people in our community may be especially adversely affected. Imagine being trans and denied medical services because of who you are? According to Marci Bowers, who is a transgender ob/gyn, this scenario is already happening. What if you’re trans, and are outed to the ambulance staff that are treating you. Can they just dump you on the side of the road, if they feel like it? Do their “religious values” offer them legal protection for doing so? As more medical staff are given broader parameters within which to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, this type of horrendous misconduct is bound to increase. Let me bore (scare?) you with a few statistics. According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 60% of students identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual experienced a sadness/ hopelessness almost everyday for two weeks or more. So much so, in fact, that they stopped doing many of the usual activities that they had previously enjoyed. In this same report, 38% of students who identified under the same demographics as above said that they had made plans to commit suicide, with 29% of them actually attempting it. This in comparison to only about 12% of those identifying as heterosexual and cisgender also planning suicide. What if mental health professionals refuse to offer treatment to these students on the basis of their “moral/ religious” objections? Under this administration, these mental health professionals could be fully shielded from legal prosecution for refusing to provide necessary care to the LGBTQIA+ community. That’s a great many lives potentially lost. And it may even be the whole point.
“Okay, okay, Abby you’ve scared us enough. And, we’re out of popcorn.” Well, fret not mes amis, the Pittsburgh area has many world-class medical facilities, including more than four Level I Trauma Centers. Most other places in the country can not come close to saying the same. Also, we have medical providers who specialize in issues specific to the LGBTQIA+ community. Central Outreach Wellness Center has multiple locations both in the city itself, in Washington, PA., as well as mobile testing centers that operate in conjunction with various other LGBTQIA+ related events and facilities. Be sure to explore these resources, and donate if you can as well. Together, we can work to prevent this horror movie from having a sequel.