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Catholics for Choice Denounces U.S. Bishops for Moving Forward with Anti-Trans Healthcare Guidelines

June 16, 2023

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, June 16, 2023
Contact: John Becker, Press Secretary
Phone: 202-203-0931

Catholics for Choice Denounces U.S. Bishops for Moving Forward with Anti-Trans Healthcare Guidelines

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) voted to move forward with editing the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs) that provide policy guidelines for Catholic-affiliated health facilities. Their focus is on Part Three of the ERDs, which outlines “The Professional-Patient Relationship.”

Catholic facilities account for one in every six hospital beds in the United States, and are required to adopt the ERDs as institutional policy, even though they severely restrict the spectrum of sexual and reproductive healthcare available to patients of all religious beliefs or lack thereof. In short, the ERDs place Catholic doctrine above the expertise of medical doctors.

And all indications are that the bishops intend to use the ERD editing process — the first revision since the mid-1990s — to further harm gender-expansive people, bringing the ERDs into line with the transphobic healthcare guidance document they released back in March telling Catholic healthcare facilities not to provide gender-affirming care.

Catholics for Choice, which uplifts and amplifies the voices of the majority of Catholics who believe in reproductive freedom, released a statement from President Jamie L. Manson, M.Div., after today’s vote:

“The Ethical and Religious Directives are used to impose religious teachings in medical settings — even on those who don’t share the religious beliefs of the institution — so any attempt by the bishops to edit them is a red flag. In recent years the hierarchy’s transphobic rhetoric has escalated, so we can assume that any changes to the ERDs signal increasing peril for our gender-expansive siblings.

“In March, the USCCB issued a healthcare guidance document that was deeply critical of trans identities and experiences, and now they seem poised to codify those views into what is essentially ‘Catholic hospital law.’ Amending the ERDs and rejecting gender-affirming healthcare, which nearly every mainstream medical and mental health organization recognizes as medically necessary, attacks the basic human rights of some of the most vulnerable and marginalized people in society — the very same people whose needs Jesus teaches us to put first.

“By moving forward with this process, this group of cisgender men have once again taken it upon themselves to substitute their own misperceptions about transgender, nonbinary, and gender-expansive people for the overwhelming scientific consensus on gender-affirming healthcare — putting the lives, health, and well-being of thousands at risk in the process. The bishops’ unwillingness to listen to the wisdom and lived experiences of countless healthy, prospering transgender persons is a glaring reminder of the powerlessness of LGBTQIA+ people and women in the church. Transgender people are a reflection of the extraordinary complexity and variety that God has made in every aspect of nature and throughout our universe, and their gender expressions and spirits are a testimony to God’s boundless creativity. The falsely binary God portrayed by the nation’s Catholic bishops is so small and so limited by comparison.

“Instead of targeting transgender people in the latest culture war battle, the U.S. Catholic bishops should listen to them, care for them, and embrace them just as they are. In doing so, our leaders might learn something about the God who created all of us.”

Catholics for Choice has tracked the ERDs and the influence of Catholic hospitals for nearly 50 years. For a more in-depth look, read articles like “Bishops in the Exam Room” and “Catholic Healthcare Hurts Black Women” in the November 2021 issue of CFC’s Conscience magazine.

Catholics for Choice shapes and advances sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to a person’s well-being and respect, and affirm the capacity of all people to make moral decisions about their lives.