** Update 1/18/18: **
The Trump administration announced the creation of a new division within the Health and Human Services Department that will provide protections for health care workers who have moral objections to providing certain services such as abortions.
JUST IN: Trump administration creating civil rights division to shield health workers who oppose abortion, treating transgender patients https://t.co/OyPwgelrY7
— The Denver Post (@denverpost) January 18, 2018
“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,” Roger Severino, director of the the Office of Civil Rights, announced Thursday, according to The Hill. “We are saying, with the launch of this division, you do not need to shed your religious identity, you do not need to shed your moral convictions to be a part of the public square.”
The new conscience and religious freedom division falls under the Office of Civil Rights and will investigate complaints by employees that their religious rights have been violated. Trump is expected to address the new rules during a live satellite address to March for Life attendees on Friday.
*** This post was updated 1/18/18 to reflect the Health and Human Services Department announcement ***
Health workers who object to performing abortions or treating transgender patients on moral grounds may soon be protected under new rules being reviewed by the Trump administration.
The Department of Health and Human Services office in charge of civil rights could be empowered by a proposed rule that is under review by the White House, enabling more protections for workers who have moral objections to certain services they are asked to perform, according to Politico.
Protections in place under former President George W. Bush that covered workers who objected, on moral grounds, to performing abortions and certain other services, were rolled back by the Obama administration, a move highly criticized by President Trump.
Roger Severino, the Trump-appointed head of the civil rights division at HHS, has indicated on previous occasions that these conscience protections are a top priority for his office.
“On the basis of religious teachings, moral reasoning, scientific evidence, and medical experience, many have strong grounds to hold that one’s sex is an immutable characteristic,” he wrote in a 2016 Heritage Foundation report. “Many involved in providing medical care and those enrolled in health insurance plans have serious objections to participating in or paying for sex-reassignment surgeries or gender transitions.”
According to Politico:
The pending rule, which could be released as soon as this week, has been described to POLITICO as establishing a new “division” of the HHS civil rights office that 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.
The office would also conduct outreach and technical support to help others who are seeking to strengthen protections for these workers.
A vote for the new rules could come on the same day as Friday’s planned March for Life, the annual gathering in Washington, D.C. to mark the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.
“To be forced under pain of losing one’s job is just outrageous,” Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican and co-chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said last week, Politico reported. Trump is “now looking to remedy that through the HHS mechanism — hasn’t happened yet, but it will.”
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