New civil rights division of HHS to protect health workers with moral or religious objections

The Trump administration will create a new division of conscience and religious freedom within the Department of Health and Human Services to pave the way for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to choose not to provide services that violate their moral or religious beliefs. [19659002] The specific details are scheduled to be announced on Thursday. But the new policy appears to be broad and aimed at protecting health workers who cite those reasons for refusing to participate in abortions, treating transgender patients or participating in other types of care.

Conservative groups praised the measure on Wednesday as the right defense of providers to religious freedom.

"We believe that the Trump administration should set an example in the application of the multiple-consciousness laws that have been pbaded since the 1970s to prevent the government from punishing people who have objections to participating in abortions," David said. Christensen, vice president of government affairs at the Family Research Council.

But a series of rights of women and LGBT and groups of doctors expressed their concern that such a policy would further discriminate against vulnerable populations and worsen inequities in health care. Even before the official announcement, several groups committed themselves to challenge him.

"This will impose a broad policy of religious rejection that will allow individuals and institutions to deny basic care for women and transgender people We know from experience that denial of attention compromises attention," said Dana Singiser, vice president of government affairs of Planned Parenthood.

By empowering an enforcement authority, the action will reverse the policies put in place under President Barack Obama, and will resuscitate and expand the "protections of conscience" introduced by President George W. Bush. The new division, which will be part of the HHS Office of Civil Rights, will not only accept complaints from health professionals, but will be responsible for ensuring that hospitals, clinics and other institutions across the country accept their beliefs. .

The previous administration, Christensen said, had "significantly reduced the application of the laws" to safeguard those who oppose abortion or have other religious convictions.

The president signed an executive order last year instructing agencies to expand religious freedom under federal law, and HHS has been at the forefront of implementing that directive. The department issued rules in October that provided extensive religious and moral exemptions to the Affordable Care Act mandate that employers, including for-profit companies, offer free contraceptive coverage.

"President Trump promised the American people that his administration will defend the rights of conscience and religious freedom," said HHS Acting Secretary Eric Hargan in a statement Wednesday night. "That promise is fulfilled today, the Founding Fathers knew that a nation that respects the rights of conscience is more diverse and freer, and the new division of OCR will help make that vision a reality."

Critics, however, said the move represented a major reversal of civil rights. 19659002] "It seems that the administration goes far beyond the reasonable adaptations that have existed for a long time in our laws, this is the use of religion to harm people because it disapproves of who they are," Harper Jean Tobin said in a statement. , policy director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. "The vast majority of the medical community is against any form of license to discriminate, that the administration is rushing such a transcendental rule in secret, hiding behind a vague description and potentially circumventing normal procedures, simply underlines how far they have been. deviating from the established law in this area. "

Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, said the policy seeks to "devalue the humanity of LGBTQ people."

"Every American deserves access to medically necessary medical care, and that medical care should not be determined by the personal opinions of individual health care providers or administrative personnel," he said.

"Awareness" protections have existed for decades, either in state statutes or as part of hospital policies, but some health care providers have said that they have not been sufficient to protect them. [19659002] In 2009, Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, a nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, was forced to help with a second-term abortion or face disciplinary action. She sued, but a court rejected her claim that Mount Sinai had violated federal protections because she received nearly $ 375 million in research funds from the National Institutes of Health. DeCarlo's complaint with the HHS Office of Civil Rights was not addressed until 2013, when the hospital changed its policies and procedures so that employees would no longer be forced to participate in abortions about their objections.

"We hope to see protections for life nurses such as Cathy DeCarlo … and other health professionals from being forced to participate in the destruction of innocent lives," Mallory Quigley, director of communications for Susan B, said in an e-mail. Anthony List, antiabortion.

However, Ben Brown, a gynecologist obstetrician in Chicago and a fellow Physicians for Reproductive Health, said the administration's new rule seems to go against the oaths that health professionals take when they enter their careers. of ethics in many hospitals and state statutes in many parts of the country that require basic care to be delivered to those who need it.

"Imposing your values ​​on a patient does not agree with our professional work as doctors," he said.

Louise Melling, legal badistant director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Wednesday, the federal employment law allows workplaces to adapt to people's beliefs as long as they do not impose undue hardship.

"Religious freedom gives you according to your beliefs, but it does not give you the right to impose your beliefs on others or harm others, even to discriminate against others," Melling said.

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