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.”
The New York Times adds:
For religious conservatives, the new protections address long-held concerns that religious people could be forced to comply with laws and regulations that violate their religious beliefs. Roger Severino, the director of the office for civil rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, promised that he and his staff would investigate every complaint of a violation of “conscience rights” protected by federal law.
But civil rights, gay rights and abortion rights groups, as well as some medical organizations, expressed alarm at a move they described as part of a systematic effort by the Trump administration to legitimize discrimination. Their concern is not limited to the executive branch. Mr. Trump has appointed judges to powerful appellate courts at a rate faster than any new president since Richard M. Nixon, and the Republican-controlled Senate is working to speed the approval of Mr. Trump’s lower-level district court nominees.
Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the senior Democrat on the Senate health committee, said the administration was using the civil rights office as “a tool to restrict access to health care for people who are transgender and women.”