WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday finalized a “conscience” rule that would allow healthcare providers and organizations to refuse to provide types of care because of “religious objections.”
The rule follows a 2017 executive order from the Trump administration to protect religious liberty. A press release from HHS stated “the final rule fulfills President Trump’s promise to promote and protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious liberty.”
The new rule comes from the establishment of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within HHS’s Office for Civil Rights, the press released claimed. It protects anyone who refuses to provide services related to provide, participate in, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for, services such as abortion, sterilization, assisted suicide or others. Religious objection also happens to be a major reason for the treatment of LGBTQ people, especially if they’re transgender.
“Finally, laws prohibiting government funded discrimination against conscience and religious freedom will be enforced like every other civil rights law.” said OCR Director Roger Severino. “This rule ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life. Protecting conscience and religious freedom not only fosters greater diversity in healthcare, it’s the law”
“Once again, this Administration shows itself to be determined to use religious liberty to harm communities it deems less worthy of equal treatment under the law,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement. “This rule threatens to prevent people from accessing critical medical care and may endanger people’s lives. Religious liberty is a fundamental right, but it doesn’t include the right to discriminate or harm others. Denying patients health care is not religious liberty. Discriminating against patients based on their gender or gender expression is not religious liberty. Medical standards, not religious belief, should guide medical care.”
“Everyone deserves healthcare, especially the most marginalized who face barriers to access,” The National LGBTQ Task Force said in a statement. “Turning anyone away from health services is immoral. Despite their claims, the Trump administration’s rule will harm LGBTQ people.”
“The Trump-Pence administration’s latest attack threatens LGBTQ people by permitting medical providers to deny critical care based on personal beliefs,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “The administration’s decision puts LGBTQ people at greater risk of being denied necessary and appropriate health care solely based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Everyone deserves access to medically necessary care and should never be turned away because of who they are or who they love.”
The rule would apply to any facility that gets HHS funds.