Director of the Office of Civil Rights (HHS)Appointed: March 2017
Who is Roger Severino?
As head of the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Roger Severino was in charge of enforcing laws that prohibit discrimination in federal health care programs. But instead of focusing on ensuring equal access, he used his office to argue that religious and personal objections can be used to deny access to basic health care. And in January 2018, Severino announced a whole new federal division designed to promote discrimination.
“I could not think of a more dangerous person to head up the Office of Civil Rights at HHS.”
Here is what Roger Severino controls
Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Services (HHS)
The HHS Office for Civil Rights enforces the laws that ensure equality for all citizens. It also investigates attacks on civil rights, including violations of religious freedom and patient privacy.
Background on Roger Severino
Under Roger Severino’s leadership, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) changed its mission statement from ensuring equal access to federal health programs to protecting religious freedom.Planned Parenthood Action Blog
Federal law already exonerates health-care workers who don’t want to perform procedures that violate their conscience. Regardless, Roger Severino issued a refusal rule that would bolster health care providers who refuse to provide, participate in, pay for, or refer services that they have personal or religious objections to. Severino’s office was positioned to enforce the rule.The Atlantic
He’s claimed that transgender people serving openly in the military "dishonor" veterans.GLAAD
One of the ways that the administration targeted LGBTQ+ rights was suggesting defining gender as being binary, unchangeable, and determined by one’s genitals at birth — regardless of how people identify. In October 2017, the Department of Justice determined that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which prohibits sex discrimination — would no longer protect transgender people from employment discrimination. Severino did not object. On June 16, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the DOJ’s interpretation. The ruling protects employees from being fired or otherwise discriminated against for their gender identity, as well as for their sexual orientation.NBC News
Roger Severino helped establish a new division within the OCR, called the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom, dedicated to protecting health care workers who deny health care services based on personal belief. The OCR is an important office within HHS that’s meant to protect health care for marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ people and underserved women. But the Trump administration's Conscience and Religious Freedom Division paves the way for discrimination against people for a variety of reasons — be it their gender identity, sexual orientation, or decision to access a safe, legal abortion.NPR
Severino has long argued for the right to deny additional health care to women who have previously obtained an abortion.Heritage Foundation
In addition to supporting a refusal rule that would let providers deny a variety of health care services, the OCR under Severino’s leadership announced in May 2019 that HHS aimed to roll back Affordable Care Act (ACA) anti-discrimination protections. The Obama administration had interpreted the ACA’s non-discrimination provision to mean that discrimination "on the basis of sex" includes gender identity. But the Trump administration’s proposed ACA rule would interpret the law more narrowly, rolling back health care coverage protections for people who have had an abortion previously and for transgender people, among others.NPR