U.S. health agency reverses Obamacare transgender protections

A sign on an insurance store advertises Obamacare in San Ysidro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule on Friday that would lift anti-discrimination protections under Obamacare for transgender people and women seeking abortions, drawing condemnation from Democratic lawmakers.

The rule reverses some provisions of the Affordable Care Act passed during President Barack Obama's administration, also known as Obamacare, that extended civil rights protections in healthcare to cover areas including gender identity and the termination of a pregnancy.

LGBTQ rights groups, Democratic lawmakers and Democratic-controlled states have decried efforts under the administration of Republican President Donald Trump to erode protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer citizens. One group said it planned to sue the administration over the new rule.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the decision a "shocking attack on the health and well-being of countless vulnerable communities, including women, LGBTQ individuals, and people of color."

The Trump administration has also sought to restrict access to abortion.

The Health Department, or HHS, said a regulation issued by the Obama administration in 2016 to implement the anti-discrimination Section 1557 of Obamacare had "redefined sex discrimination to include termination of pregnancy and gender identity, which it defined as 'one's internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female.'"

That regulation was struck down by a federal court in October 2019.

"HHS will enforce Section 1557 by returning to the government’s interpretation of sex discrimination according to the plain meaning of the word 'sex' as male or female and as determined by biology," the department said on Friday.

The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said it planned to "sue the Trump administration for exceeding their legal authority and attempting to remove basic health care protections from vulnerable communities including LGBTQ people."


(Reporting by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Tom Brown and Sonya Hepinstall)