Not long after rolling back the Obama-era HHS contraceptive mandate (which is now left to the courts), the Trump administration has announced a plan to reshape the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights in order to provide health workers with greater religious and moral conscience protections. A newly proposed rule would create the Division on Conscience and Religious Freedom within the Office of Civil Rights. According to Politico, this is possibly “part of a broader plan to protect health workers who don’t want to perform abortions, treat transgender patients seeking to transition or provide other services for which they have religious or moral objections.”
Once you see what abortion does to a living, preborn human child, it is not difficult to understand why many would decline to participate in such an act. The video below, narrated by former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino, describes a D&E abortion, typically committed between 13 and 24 weeks of pregnancy:
The LGBT community has expressed concern, claiming that “religious freedom” shouldn’t allow anyone to “discriminate.” However, forcing health workers to deliberately take human lives via abortion or to participate in other acts that go against their sincerely held religious beliefs is discriminatory in itself, and does not protect workers’ religious freedom. Politico writes that “advocates of conscience protections say that new accommodations for caregivers are long overdue”:
“Conscience violations continue to occur, and it is critical that the administration responds appropriately,” said Melanie Israel of The Heritage Foundation. “Ensuring that HHS funds do not support morally coercive or discriminatory practices or policies in violation of federal law should not be remotely controversial.”
The office would “conduct compliance reviews, audits and other enforcement actions to ensure that health care providers are allowing workers to opt out of procedures when they have religious or moral objections.”
Alliance Defending Freedom’s Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Division Kristen Waggoner applauded the change, saying, “One of the freedoms Americans have cherished most is the freedom to live according to their faith and conscience, free from government coercion,” and this is important, because recently, “we have seen the government repeatedly violate constitutionally protected freedoms. Government should serve as freedom’s greatest protector, not its greatest threat.” Waggoner believes this change will secure “freedom of religion and conscience rather than coerce nuns, faith-based universities, Christian-run family businesses, and pro-life organizations to speak and live contrary to their own beliefs.”
Acting Secretary of HHS Eric Hargan stated at the announcement today, “President Trump promised the American people that his administration would vigorously uphold the rights of conscience and religious freedom. That promise is being kept today. The Founding Fathers knew that a nation that respects conscience rights is more diverse and more free, and OCR’s new division will help make that vision a reality.”
While conscience protections have been debated for decades, President George W. Bush put conscience protections in place for health care workers, which the Obama administration later rolled back, claiming they were, according to Politico, “too broad and could have allowed workers to opt out of end-of-life care, providing birth control and treatment for HIV and AIDS.” But supporters of the protections said workers were “liable to be fired for refusing to assist in abortions.” And in fact, this has happened to health care workers already. According to ABC News, Sara Hellwege, a pro-life nurse, “sued Tampa Family Health Centers after she was rejected for a job because she would not prescribe birth control.” In other countries like Sweden, at least one midwife has lost her job and has been the subject of public ridicule for refusing to participate in abortions.
A 2016 Marist poll revealed that a majority of Americans support conscience protections for health care workers.