Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Sunday 24 October |
Saint of the Day: St. Anthony Mary Claret
Aleteia logo
home iconNews
line break icon

Trump Administration rolling out new conscience protection unit at HHS

US Department of Health and Human Services building


John Burger - published on 01/18/18 - updated on 01/18/18

Health and Human Services will focus on medical professionals' complaints of discrimination based on religious belief

The Trump Administration is setting up a new division within the Department of Health and Human Services to help ensure that the conscience rights of doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers will be respected.

The new division, which will be part of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, will not accept complaints from health-care professionals and will be responsible for ensuring that hospitals, clinics and other institutions across the country are accommodating their beliefs, the Washington Post reported.

Politico reported that the change is contained in a proposed rule, which is under review by the White House and which would empower the HHS to shield conscientious objectors in healthcare and “punish organizations that don’t allow them to express their religious and moral objections.”

President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order last year instructing agencies to expand religious liberty under federal law. HHS issued rules in October that provided broad religious and moral exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employers, including for-profit companies, provide no-cost contraception coverage.

“President Trump promised the American people that his administration would vigorously uphold the rights of conscience and religious freedom,” HHS Acting Secretary Eric Hargan said in a release Wednesday night. “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.”

The announcement comes two days after Trump issued a proclamation for National Religious Freedom Day, in which he said, “Our Constitution and laws guarantee Americans the right not just to believe as they see fit, but to freely exercise their religion,” and a day before he is scheduled to address the annual March for Life in Washington.

In a draft of its strategic plan for 2018-2022 released last October, HHS used language that many saw as unusually “pro-life.”

“Our ultimate goal is to improve healthcare outcomes for all people, including the unborn, across healthcare settings,” the department said in the plan.

The new development reportedly will establish a \ Conscience and Religious Freedom 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, according to Politico. The new division would be a third, co-equal branch with the office’s existing two divisions that focus on federal civil rights laws and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

There was significant opposition to the new move, even before the new announcement, from organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood.

“The administration appears set to go far, far beyond the reasonable accommodations that have long existed in our laws. This is the use of religion to hurt people because you disapprove of who they are,” Harper Jean Tobin, the National Center for Transgender Equality’s director of policy, said in a statement. “The vast majority of the medical community is against any form of license to discriminate.”

But Melanie Israel of The Heritage Foundation commented: “Conscience violations continue to occur, and it is critical that the administration responds appropriately. Ensuring that HHS funds do not support morally coercive or discriminatory practices or policies in violation of federal law should not be remotely controversial.”

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Marinella Bandini
Exclusive: Carlo Acutis as seen by his mother
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio replied to John Paul II’s letter with a miracle
Theresa Civantos Barber
St. John Paul II’s perfect advice for lasting love in marriage
Cerith Gardiner
A collection of Pope John Paul II’s quotes on some of life’s most...
John Burger
Once considered for top post in Anglican Church, former bishop be...
Philip Kosloski
How kindness begins in your heart
David Ives
5 More horror movies with Catholic sensibilities
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.