May 24, 2019

Scoop: Trump's plan to let adoption agencies reject same-sex parents

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Trump administration will soon make it easier for adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples, senior administration officials told Axios.

Why it matters: President Trump is steadily rolling back Obama-era nondiscrimination policies across the entire federal government — including health care, housing and the military.

Details: Former President Obama banned adoption and foster-care agencies from receiving federal funding if they refused to work with same-sex couples. Religious organizations have consistently bristled at that policy, arguing that they're being forced to contradict their beliefs.

  • Administration officials said the White House is weighing two options: either rescinding those rules altogether, or adding an explicit exemption for religious organizations.
  • The debate is mainly about which approach would hold up better in court, the officials said. A religious exemption seems to have the upper hand for now, but that could change.

Trump alluded to this issue at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this year, but did not announce a formal policy.

  • The process is now far enough along that an announcement could happen by early July, the officials said.

Between the lines: The formal policy would come from the Health and Human Services Department's Office of Civil Rights — which has been at the forefront of Trump's broader effort to accommodate religious organizations and roll back nondiscrimination rules.

  • The director of that office, Roger Severino, would not directly address questions about the adoption policy during a brief interview, pointing instead to other actions his office has already taken.
  • Just this morning, OCR said it will scrap an Obama-era policy that says doctors can't discriminate against transgender patients. (That policy had already been frozen by a federal judge.) It has also expanded health care workers' legal right to refuse to perform services that violate their religious beliefs.

Go deeper

Pandemic forces startups to shift gears

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Spaces CEO Brad Herman had an early warning about COVID-19 because his startup supplies VR attractions to a number of theme parks in China. Realizing that the business he spent the last few years building was going to evaporate, Herman quickly found a new way to apply his team's know-how: helping companies host Zoom teleconferences in VR.

Why it matters: Many startups are rethinking the viability of their core businesses in the wake of the coronavirus. Spaces' move is one of many such pivots likely to crop up in the coming months.

International coronavirus treatment trial uses AI to speed results

Hydroxychloroquine is one of the drugs that will be included in the trial. Photo: John Philips/Getty Images

The first hospital network in the U.S. has joined an international clinical trial using artificial intelligence to help determine which treatments for patients with the novel coronavirus are most effective on an on-going basis.

Why it matters: In the midst of a pandemic, scientists face dueling needs: to find treatments quickly and to ensure they are safe and effective. By using this new type of adaptive platform, doctors hope to collect clinical data that will help more quickly determine what actually works.

Go deeperArrow26 mins ago - Health

We can't just flip the switch on the coronavirus

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It feels like some big, terrible switch got flipped when the coronavirus upended our lives — so it’s natural to want to simply flip it back. But that is not how the return to normalcy will go.

The big picture: Even as the number of illnesses and deaths in the U.S. start to fall, and we start to think about leaving the house again, the way forward will likely be slow and uneven. This may feel like it all happened suddenly, but it won't end that way.

Go deeperArrow41 mins ago - Health