Pax Enstad, a 17-year-old transgender boy from Washington who was assigned female at birth, has experienced gender dysphoria since at least the age of 11. His doctors prescribed chest reconstruction surgery to treat his gender dysphoria, but a Catholic health organization called PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center denied healthcare coverage to Enstad, forcing his parents to pay almost $10,000 out of pocket for the surgery.
"To exist in a body because it wasn’t mine was unbearable for me," Enstad told KIRO 7. "I was devastated when my health provider refused … My parents made great sacrifices to get me surgery, but they didn’t have to. No one should."
Enstad's mother, Cheryl, had worked for PeaceHealth as a medical social worker for 20 years, and told The Seattle Times that she felt "betrayed" over their decision not to provide her son with coverage.
"They were telling me my son was undeserving of care," she said at a news conference on Thursday, according to the Times.
"We were willing to do whatever it took to get Pax the medical care he needed — as any parent would," she said, according to The Huffington Post. "When your child is singled out and rejected simply for being themselves, it’s heartbreaking, and it isn’t fair. We’re bringing this lawsuit to ensure no family has to go through what we did."
"PeaceHealth is committed to creating an inclusive health care environment," spokesperson Jeremy Rush said in a statement to Seattle Times. "Throughout our 126-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. We remain committed to promoting personal and community health, and treating each person in a loving and caring way."
The ACLU contends that PeaceHealth is violating both state law against discrimination as well as the Affordable Care Act (which prohibits discrimination).
"PeaceHealth’s blanket of exclusion of 'transgender services' is not based on standards of medical care," ACLU staff attorney Lisa Nowlin said at the news conference. "This is discrimination, and it is plainly illegal. Under state and federal law, no company is allowed to single out and exclude one group of individuals from medical care that is prescribed for them by their doctors and that the company routinely provides for others."
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