The Catholic community is urged to speak out regarding a new rule, proposed by the N.J. Department of Health and Human Services, which threatens to prevent Catholic health care institutions and health care workers from objecting to performing gender transition procedures, regardless of whether that objection is a matter of religious belief or clinical judgment.

The HHS proposal was published by the Federal Register Aug. 4, opening a 60-day period for public comment that can be submitted at https://bit.ly/3vEM4Bl. The last day for submissions is Oct. 3.

A 74-page legal memorandum that had been attached to a court filing from a consortium of 30 sexual rights groups revealed HHS’s promise to revise its mandates on health plan coverage and performance to include surgical abortion, cross-sex hormones, gender-transition surgeries, gender-affirming cosmetic surgeries and voice modification – along with a host of expanded services dealing with fertility treatments, contraception, abortifacients and sterilizations.

According to a legislative alert issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “The HHS rule implements the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act, Section 1557. That provision protects people from discrimination on the basis of their sex in health care. But HHS interprets Section 1557 to impose new mandates about gender identity.

“The proposed rule also suggests that the government may refuse to honor the right of health care workers and providers not to perform or participate in abortions. The proposed HHS Section 1557 rule could function as both an abortion mandate and a gender transition procedure mandate,” the bishops pointed out.

In addition, according to the USCCB website, the new provision could require health insurance plans to cover the costs of those procedures, raising the price of health insurance by millions of dollars for employers and, potentially, resulting in the closing of Catholic and other religious-based health care institutions.

According to the Catholic Medical Association, HHS may soon force all U.S. medical professionals to perform abortions, gender transition surgeries or assisted suicide against their moral, religious and clinical judgment – unless the HHS proposal is successfully challenged.

In a joint statement issued July 27 by the chairmen of four U.S. bishops committees, the archbishops wrote, "Catholic health care ministries serve everyone, no matter their race, sex, belief system or any other characteristic. The same excellent care will be provided in a Catholic hospital to all patients, including patients who identify as transgender, whether it be for a broken bone or for cancer, but we cannot do what our faith forbids. We object to harmful procedures, not to patients."

The USCCB released the statement from Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice, and Human Development; Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman, Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman, Committee for Religious Liberty.

"The general public has almost no awareness of what may be coming," said Doug Wilson to Catholic News Service. Wilson is CEO of the Colorado-based Catholic Benefits Association which provides legal advocacy and litigation in defense of First Amendment rights for its membership.

The USCCB is vigorously opposing the provisions in the rule that do harm to life and religious liberty and asks all Catholics to submit their comments by the deadline to let HHS know that health care workers and medical facilities must be free to conscientiously object to gender transition procedures.

Visit www.usccb.org/do-no-harm to learn more about this and other harmful regulations and find out how to take action.