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Hospital groups send letter to Trump criticizing executive order on race and sex stereotyping in healthcare

The groups said prohibiting training that promotes racial reconciliation is counterproductive to addressing racism.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

The American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and American Nurses Association sent a joint letter to the Trump Administration Wednesday asking to rescind Executive Order 13950, Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping, which the groups said would undo decades of progress in combating racial inequality.

The EO essentially says there is no implicit racial/sexual bias inherent in healthcare. Provider organizations say in the letter that this will open the gates to increased discrimination, because healthcare will no longer be able to take historical biases into account.

The executive order went into effect on September 22, though requirements for federal contractors and subcontractors will apply to contracts entered into 60 days after the implementation date -- November 21. 

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Regardless, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs can still investigate claims of sex and race stereotyping based its existing authority under Executive Order 11246, which requires contractors and subcontractors to treat employees without regard to their race or sex, among other protected bases, and requires contractors to take affirmative action to ensure discrimination doesn't take place.

As defined in Executive Order 13950, race or sex stereotyping means ascribing character traits, values, moral and ethical codes, privileges, status or beliefs to an entire race or sex, or to individuals because of their race or sex. 

By contrast, race or sex "scapegoating," as defined in the new executive order, means assigning fault, blame, or bias to a race or sex, or to members of a race or sex, because of their race or sex. It encompasses any claim that, consciously or unconsciously, members of any race are inherently racist or are inherently inclined to oppress others, or that members of a sex are inherently sexist or inclined to oppress others.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT

Executive Order 13950 prohibits contractors from using any workplace training "that inculcates in its employees any form of race or sex stereotyping or any form of race or sex scapegoating" and provides several examples of specific concepts that would be prohibited in such training programs.

Race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating, as defined in the order, includes the concepts that an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously; an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex; any person should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex; or meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race.

In the letter, the hospital groups said this would "stifle attempts at open, honest discussion of these issues in the public and private sectors. Prohibiting federal agencies from conducting and funding training that promote racial reconciliation is counterproductive to addressing racism."

The groups cited the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on communities of color, and bemoaned what they called an "unprecedented attack on scientific freedom" due to the threat it poses to racism and implicit bias research conducted by the National Institutes of Health.

"Promoting diversity and inclusion in the federal government would serve to strengthen, rather than weaken, collaboration among federal workers and contractors, who conduct lifesaving research, care for the nation's veterans, and administer numerous programs and services to enhance the nation's health and welfare," the groups said. "As providers of care to diverse communities throughout the country, we urge the Administration to immediately rescind EO 13950 and allow for our continued work on inclusion and equity."

THE LARGER TREND

Many have criticized the executive order as censorship. Last week, the American Council on Education and dozens of other college and university groups sent the administration a letter stating that while they oppose race and sex steretyping, "the timing, content and discordant tone of your Executive Order is creating concern, confusion and uncertainty for federal contractors and grant recipients across the country."

"Workplace diversity and inclusion training programs on our campuses align with federal and state anti-discrimination laws and, at institutions that are government contractors, the non-discrimination-in-employment mandates of Executive Order 11246," the letter continued. "Executive Order 13950 is already disrupting the planning and delivery of these programs, creating a chilling effect on the good faith and lawful efforts of campus officials to build and sustain non-discriminatory and non-hostile workplaces and learning communities."
 

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com