Published: Sat, May 04, 2019
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Trump Administration Guarantees Conscience Protections for Doctors Who Won’t Perform Abortions

Trump Administration Guarantees Conscience Protections for Doctors Who Won’t Perform Abortions

The American Medical Association called on HHS to withdraw the proposed conscience rule in April 2018, saying the rule "would function as a shield for people asserting objections on religious or moral grounds and could permit them to withhold care from already vulnerable groups".

The rule makes plain that workers can not be compelled to participate in abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide procedures, but is vague about other services - such as hormonal and surgical treatments for transgender individuals - that some health professionals may also find objectionable on moral grounds.

The 440-page-long new regulations, which provide the regulatory backbone to the First Amendment conscience rights of medical professionals in America, indicate what recourse the victims of discrimination can turn to and what penalties the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of Civil Rights may enforce for violations.

Some have questioned whether the conscience rule will add barriers to care for patients in rural areas, where local hospital markets are often dominated by religious hospitals.

"The Department has also witnessed an increase in lawsuits against State and local laws that plaintiffs allege violate conscience or unlawfully discriminate", the rule says. "The administration's decision puts LGBTQ people at greater risk of being denied necessary and appropriate health care exclusively based on their sexual orientation or gender identity". Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said that participating in abortion, assisted suicide, or other objectionable practices should not be mandatory for anyone who aspires to become a doctor.

The final rule includes responses to more than 242,000 public comments on the proposal.

"Laws prohibiting government funded discrimination against conscience and religious freedom will be enforced like every other civil rights law", Severino said in the announcement.

Employers who receive complaints filed with the newly-created Conscience and Religious Freedom Division by employees could have their federal funding rescinded.


Musician Wynonna Judd listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a National Day of Prayer event in the Rose Garden of the White House.

Elected officials across the political spectrum have condemned Saturday's violence, which coincided with the final day of Passover and came six months after the shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue, which killed 11 people.

"As we unite on this day of prayer, we renew our resolve to protect communities of faith and ensure that all people and all of our people can live, pray and worship in peace", Trump said.

Mr Trump also said: "People love you no matter where I go".

Instead, the authors argued, "the rule might result in an increase in the number of providers overall, or in certain specialties within the healthcare field. The Office for Civil Rights is now better empowered to protect individuals from having their moral convictions about the sanctity of human life violated".

To date, Severino said protection and enforcement of conscience and religious freedom regulations in healthcare have been "inadequate". Health care providers should never be forced or coerced into participating in abortion.

"We thank President Trump and Secretary Azar for their commitment to fighting discrimination", she said. "What is being done is the provision of enforcement tools for existing conscience and religious freedom protections in healthcare".

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