Monday, January 22, 2018

Trump Admin Will Protect Workers Who Refuse Services on Religious Grounds


NPR (January 18, 2018): Trump Admin Will Protect Workers Who Refuse Services on Religious Grounds, by Alison Kodjak:

The Department of Health and Human Services announced that it is creating the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom to protect health care workers who refuse to take part in procedures like abortion or treat certain people because of moral or religious objections.  The creation of the division marks a sharp departure from Obama-era regulation that barred health care workers from refusing to treat people seeking abortions and transgender individuals.  (The enforcement of the regulation was enjoined by a Texas judge in December 2016).

One of the primary aims of the Division appears to be protecting health care workers from participating in abortion services because it goes against their religious beliefs.  

Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said those conscience objections could expand to allow health workers to refuse some services to gay, lesbian and transgender people.

"This administration has taken a very expansive view of religious liberty," she said in an interview. "It understands religious liberty to override antidiscrimination principles."

HHS makes clear that it won't allow gender discrimination that is banned by federal law. The question, according to Melling, is whether the administration includes gender identity and sexual orientation in the definition of gender.

Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan claims that the Division is necessary because "[f]or too long many of these health care practitioners have been bullied and discriminated against because of their religious beliefs and moral convictions."  However, claims of conscience objection raise broader questions about health care workers' ethical responsibility to provide services and patients' rights to health care and non-discrimination.

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