Published: Sun, January 21, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Trump Administration Announces New 'Conscience and Religious Freedom' Division

Trump Administration Announces New 'Conscience and Religious Freedom' Division

HHS said it will be enforcing protections that already exist.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced Thursday it created a new division in charge of protecting health care workers so they don't have to provide services that go against their religious or moral convictions. It could allow health care workers to refuse to perform abortions or provide treatment to members of the LGBTQ community if they say they object on religious or moral grounds.

"He said, 'We're a nation of tolerance and that we will not allow people of faith to be bullied or targeted anymore, '" Severino said.

Since taking office, President Donald Trump has sought measures to broaden religious exemptions to HHS policies, like the Obama era contraception mandate.

But LGBT groups decried the establishment of the Conscience & Religious Freedom Division on the basis that it would enable religious objectors to refuse to treat transgender people or provide abortion-related services.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it would fight any such proposed rule.

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The HHS Office for Civil Rights is headed by Roger Severino. "For too long healthcare practitioners s have been bullied or discriminated against due to their religious beliefs and moral convictions leading many of them to wonder if they have a future in our healthcare system", Eric Hargan, acting HHS secretary said.

Politico reports that the new rule could be released this week.

How or if the new division affects healthcare providers and hospital operations is not yet known.

Rev. Sammy Rodriguez called the move "powerful", and told CBN News he thinks President Trump is building a "firewall" to protect people of faith. As Acting Secretary Hargan made clear, it also applies to medical students who have such objections.

Although the HHS civil rights office traditionally has gotten a small number of complaints involving religious and conscience rights, the number has grown since Trump was elected.

Reproductive and trans health care also came under attack in December when word broke that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were reportedly banning the use of seven words, including "fetus" and "transgender", from official documents.

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The Trump administration has indicated it will change the never-enforced regulation. "This grossly misnamed division represents the opposite". "Everyone has a right to an equal seat in America's civic life".

Supporters of the new office, like the Family Research Council, welcomed it as a way to protect the rights of health care professionals.

Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals have new, stronger federal protections if they have religious and moral objections to performing certain procedures, such as abortion, assisted suicide or treating transgender patients.

Zuzinec works in health care. They are prioritizing providers' beliefs over patients' health and lives. Another 12 percent said a health care provider refused to provide them transition-related care.

"This would be yet another attempt to let ideology dictate who is able to get the care they need", Murray said.

The latest move is likely to be challenged in court as well.

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She added discrimination in healthcare settings "remains a grave and widespread problem for many vulnerable populations and contributes to a wide range of health disparities". This right to discriminate will empower religious conservatives to abuse and damage real people, while putting the health and welfare of patients in jeopardy.

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