This week, my oldest child turns 4. Like other parents, I find myself thinking back on pregnancy and the birth.
This year, two things stand out.
Most of my prenatal appointments were happily uneventful. But when we discussed what would happen if I went into labor early, I started asking questions. The doctor said he sent patients to a local Catholic hospital, and I wanted to know about not just the care my baby would receive, but also the care I would receive. I was uneasy because I had heard that Catholic hospitals have used religion to justify refusing medically appropriate care to pregnant women in emergencies.
I asked a lot of questions that day and again at the next appointment. If the Trump administration has its way, asking questions like this will have to become second nature for all of us when we need to access health care – whether at a new doctor’s office or at a community health center with no religious affiliation.
President Donald Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services has proposed a new regulation to create a sweeping religious exemption for health care providers. Hospitals, insurance companies, doctors and even schedulers could use religion to justify denying health care to patients who need it. Patients could even be denied life-saving care.
Navigating the health care system is already challenging enough. We’ve been told we need to be our own best advocates, but we should be able to trust that our health care providers will put patients first. This proposed rule turns that fundamental principle on its head. It would allow the religious beliefs of a health care provider to come before what is best for the patient.
Now all of us will need to ask the kinds of questions I asked my obstetrician. But even if patients ask questions, they may not get straight answers. For instance, if a doctor doesn’t perform a service, patients expect to be referred to another provider or hospital that does. Under this proposal, that’s no longer a given. And doctors may not even have to give patients accurate information or tell them what their treatment options are and what the standard of care is. If patients feel like health care providers aren’t giving them the best care, patients could even skip seeing the doctor – even when they are in serious need of medical care.
Religious freedom is fundamental, but so is the right to get the health care you need. That’s why today we joined allies to deliver more than 200,000 comments from people across the country objecting to the Trump administration proposal. No patient should lose access to critical health care because of a doctor’s or hospital’s religious beliefs. Patients’ health needs must come first. (You can read Americans United's comments objecting to this proposal here.)
Four years ago this week and two days before my due date, I stood with allies and friends on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. Hobby Lobby, a national craft store chain, wanted to use religion to justify denying insurance coverage for contraception to its employees and the case had made its way to the Supreme Court. Today, I’m standing up to another attack on patients’ access to health care by filing comments on behalf of Americans United to oppose the Trump administration’s harmful rule.
This week I am reminded that the fight against using religion to harm others, deny them health care or take away their rights is far from over. And I am more committed than ever – for my children and the health and well-being of everyone in our country.