New guidelines aim to limit transgender care in Catholic hospitals

U.S. Catholic bishops issued a guideline March 20 that encourages Catholic hospitals to not offer gender-affirming medical treatments. 

"Catholic healthcare services must not perform interventions, whether surgical or chemical, that aim to transform the sexual characteristics of a human body into those of the opposite sex or take part in the development of such procedures," the document reads. 

Sister Mary Haddad, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, said healthcare providers will continue to respect the dignity of transgender patients and provide them with high-quality care. 

"We remain committed to honoring the human dignity of everyone, including transgender patients and their families, and to providing them with the best possible medical and spiritual care," she said in a March 20 news release.

However, critics of the new guidelines have expressed concern that they will limit patients' access to transgender care. More than 1 in 7 patients are cared for in a Catholic hospital every day, according to a fact sheet from the Catholic Health Association. The association represents more than 600 hospitals nationwide and, for many patients in rural areas, a Catholic hospital may be their only access to care

"In neglecting the experiences of trans people and in not attending to contemporary science, it harms people instead of healing them," Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for LGBTQ rights, said in a March 21 statement. "The bishops' unwillingness to counter any of the evidence from the scientific community or the experience of transgender people is neither good theology nor acceptable pastoral care." 

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