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A Catholic health organization based in Washington state has agreed to start performing sex change surgeries after settling a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
In a lawsuit filed in October 2017, the ACLU claimed PeaceHealth's policy refusing to cover sex change surgery for minors was illegal and discriminatory. At issue was whether PeaceHealth-provided insurance would cover a 2016 mastectomy and chest reconstruction surgery for "Paxton," the then-16-year-old daughter of PeaceHealth employee Cheryl Enstad, who had been employed there for more than 20 years and was covered under the employee health insurance plan. Paxton identifies as a male.
Citing provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Washington Law Against Discrimination, Enstad and the ACLU filed a discrimination suit against PeaceHealth.
The lawsuit took place 10 months after PeaceHealth expanded its gender reassignment services in accordance with national guidelines set by insurance provider Aetna. The change, however, had no impact on Enstad's case since the Aetna guidelines only apply to patients aged 18 years and up. Paxton was only 16 when her mother's request for sex change surgery was denied.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) declares, "Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law" (CCC 2297).
The nonprofit PeaceHealth, founded by the St. Joseph Sisters of Peace in 1890, operates health care facilities in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. A PeaceHealth press release announcing the settlement stated:
PeaceHealth is committed to an inclusive healthcare environment for all and does not discriminate based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or any other basis prohibited by applicable federal, state, or local law. Throughout our 127-year heritage, we have been dedicated to embracing and celebrating the diversity of our communities, our caregivers and the individuals we are privileged to serve.
PeaceHealth adopted the Aetna guidelines — effective Jan. 1, 2017 — that established the minimum age range of gender reassignment surgery as 18. According to the ACLU press release:
Under PeaceHealth's amended medical plan, PeaceHealth's 15,000-plus employees will have access to transition-related care under the plan. Aetna's Gender Reassignment Surgery policy does not provide coverage for mastectomies and chest reconstruction surgery as a treatment for gender dysphoria for individuals under the age of 18. However, because Pax is no longer a minor, the Enstads cannot challenge the amended medical plan as part of this lawsuit.
"This is a bitter-sweet result for us," said Cheryl Enstad, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of her son, Pax. "Our number one priority in bringing this case was to ensure access to gender affirming care for transgender people, and we are pleased PeaceHealth changed its policy. But we hope that Peace Health eventually removes the age-related limitation on coverage."
Coincidentally, the same month that Enstad v. PeaceHealth was settled, the Trump administration rolled back Federal Title IX sexual identification of individuals who categorize themselves as members of their non-birth — and therefore contrary to their DNA — gender.
The move by the Trump administration was applauded by, among others, the American College of Pediatricians, Alliance Defending Freedom, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Liberty Counsel, the Christian Medical and Dental Association, the National Task Force for Therapy Equality and the Freedom Defense Fund.
The above groups signed a letter sent to the U.S. Departments of Justice, Education and Health and Human Services on Dec. 6, in which they state:
Proponents of medical treatment for minors diagnosed with gender dysphoria — the denial of their birth gender and embrace of a number of other sexual identities — claim such efforts as using puberty blockers and more permanent surgical procedures may reduce clinical depression and even prevent suicide. As noted by Ryan T. Anderson at The Heritage Foundation, such claims don't align with reality: "The best studies of gender dysphoria show that between 80 and 95 percent of children who express a discordant gender identity will come to identify with their bodily sex if natural development is allowed to proceed."
Anderson's research is supported by a study released by Johns Hopkins University Professor Paul McHugh that concluded, "When children who reported transgender feelings were tracked without medical or surgical treatment at both Vanderbilt University and London's Portman Clinic, 70 to 80 percent of them spontaneously lost those feelings."
Anderson also rebuts claims minors are less likely to commit the grave sin of suicide after medical treatment for gender dysphoria: "'[T]ransitioning' treatment has not been shown to reduce the extraordinarily high rate of suicide attempts among people who identify as transgender (41 percent, compared with 4.6 percent of the general population)."
"People who have had transition surgery are 19 times more likely to die by suicide," he noted.