President Joe Biden is facing pressure from fellow Democrats to eliminate a division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) created under the Trump administration in 2018. The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) was established to ensure the federal enforcement of laws that exist to protect the fundamental rights of conscience and religious freedom.
“Laws protecting religious freedom and conscience rights are just empty words on paper if they aren’t enforced,” said OCR Director Roger Severino at the time. “No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions, and the new division will help guarantee that victims of unlawful discrimination find justice.”
Both the Democratic Women’s Caucus (DWC) and Secular Democrats of America are calling on President Biden to end the division. Sixty female Democrat lawmakers penned a letter to Biden in December encouraging him to “use executive powers to immediately begin reversing the harm wrought by the outgoing administration…” On the list of their demands is the elimination of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division of HHS, claiming that it “has been weaponized to justify discrimination.”
Similarly, on the list of demands from the Secular Democrats of America is, “Dismantle the HHS Conscience and Religious Freedom Division,” along with the call to repeal an executive order that protected free speech and religious liberty, and to withdraw funding for pro-life pregnancy centers and abstinence-only education programs. Another demand is to increase vaccination rates by repealing all nonmedical exemptions to mandatory vaccination for children in schools and daycare centers.
The elimination of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division could end the enforcement of conscience protections that currently exist for medical professionals who don’t want to participate in abortion or euthanasia. Since its inception, OCR has dealt with multiple cases in which a medical professional’s conscience protections were ignored, including a case in which a nurse at the University of Vermont Medical Center was forced to participate in an abortion after she was led to believe the baby had been miscarried.
In December, OCR disallowed $200 million in federal Medicaid funds from going to California after the state illegally mandated all health care plans under the regulation of the California Department of Managed Health Care to cover abortion without exception.
Opponents of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division say it allows for discrimination towards people based on their gender, sexual orientation, or decision to abort. However, these opponents are unconcerned with the religious discrimination that would exist against those who do not vaccinate due to religious objections or those who would be forced to commit abortions — which abortion workers themselves have said is “barbaric” and has caused them emotional harm.
Case in point: Currently, a bill in New Mexico seeking to eliminate conscience protections for medical professionals who don’t want to participate in abortion is causing some doctors to say they will be forced to leave the state if the law is passed.
“Though some of the existing law is unenforceable because of Roe v. Wade, this statute contains important provisions that protect our doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals,” said state Sen. Gregg Schmedes. “As a medical doctor, I have heard from many of my colleagues that if they lose these vital conscience protections, they will consider leaving the state which would threaten healthcare access for many New Mexicans.”
Being forced to participate in acts that a person finds immoral — like killing innocent human beings under the guise of “health care” — does not equal discrimination toward patients.
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