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Trump Administration Announces Final Conscience Rule Protecting Healthcare Providers

The Trump administration announced on the National Day of Prayer Thursday its final rule that protects the conscience rights of healthcare workers and other entities.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) said the new rule protects healthcare providers from discrimination when they exercise their conscience rights in programs that are funded by HHS.

“Finally, laws prohibiting government funded discrimination against conscience and religious freedom will be enforced like every other civil rights law,” said OCR Director Roger Severino.

“This rule ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life,” he added. “Protecting conscience and religious freedom not only fosters greater diversity in healthcare, it’s the law.”

The rule will enforce about 25 provisions already passed by Congress that protect the conscience rights of healthcare providers. It also replaces a 2011 Obama-era rule the Trump administration views as “inadequate.”

“President Trump’s efforts reflect a long history in American constitutional law about the morality of conscience rights,” said Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. “Unfortunately, the previous administration had little concern for protecting the conscience rights of doctors, nurses, and residents.”

He explained:

Despite current law that has protected conscience rights for over 30 years, the lack of regulations resulted in confusion and a lack of awareness within the healthcare community, leaving healthcare personnel vulnerable to discrimination and forcing them to drop their specialties at a time of healthcare scarcity. Protecting the right of all healthcare providers to make professional judgments based on moral convictions and ethical standards is foundational to federal law and is necessary to ensure that access to healthcare is not diminished, which would occur if they were forced out of their jobs because of their ethical stances.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said he is “grateful” for the new rule.

“Health care should be about saving life, not taking life,” he said. “Health care providers should never be forced or coerced into participating in abortion. The Office for Civil Rights is now better empowered to protect individuals from having their moral convictions about the sanctity of human life violated.”

Lila Rose, president of pro-life organization Live Action, observed the nation has “long protected the rights of conscientious objectors.”

“It is crucial we honor and respect the fact that our citizens still think for themselves,” she said. “We need more medical professionals to acknowledge the scientific reality that life begins at fertilization, and that medicine should be used to heal and not harm.”

Ashley McGuire, senior fellow at The Catholic Association, responded to the new rule with the statement: “No healthcare worker should ever be forced to choose between their practice or their faith.”

“That principle is enshrined in countless laws and regulations but has been violated for far too long,” she asserted. “Today’s regulation restates our nation’s commitment to conscience rights in the healthcare industry.”

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said the new rule succeeds in allowing the law to be enforced “after years of nonenforcement by the Obama administration.”

“Abortion is not health care and no health care professional should ever be forced to participate in the destruction of human life,” she said, observing as well the recent attempts by some states to expand abortion on demand.

“As some states attempt to expand abortion on demand through birth, with no conscience protections whatsoever, these regulations underscore the Trump administration’s seriousness about standing up for pro-life health care workers and institutions,” Dannenfelser explained.

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