Report: HHS to Offer 'Conscience Protections' for Medical Staff

Official announcement expected Thursday on agency's new moral and 'religious liberty' rules
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2018 8:41 AM CST
Report: HHS Moves to Protect Med Workers' 'Consciences'
Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan, center, is seen at the Polk-Dalton Clinic on Oct. 27, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.   (AP Photo/Adam Beam)

A planned Health and Human Services initiative would offer "conscience protections" for medical workers, and women's and LGBT rights advocates are teaming up with doctors' groups to push back against it before it's even announced. It appears a new civil rights division within the HHS would offer protections for doctors, nurses, and other health care staff who have religious or moral objections to taking part in certain activities, the Washington Post reports. That list could include performing abortions and treating transgender patients. Sources say the new overhaul—which Politico notes has been "closely guarded"—would free medical professionals to express their moral and "religious freedom" beliefs, and organizations that don't let them do so could face consequences.

"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," HHS Acting Secretary Eric Hargan said in a statement. Conservative groups are hailing the news, saying HHS funds shouldn't support practices that are "morally coercive," a Heritage Foundation rep tells Politico. But the legal director for the Human Rights Campaign tells the Post such a policy would "devalue the humanity of LGBTQ people." "Every American deserves access to medically necessary health care, and that health care should not be determined by the personal opinions of individual health care providers or administrative staff," she says. An ACLU rep dives deeper: "[Religious liberty] gives you a right to your beliefs, but it doesn't give you the right to impose your beliefs on others or harm others." (More religious freedom stories.)

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