Tuesday, September 3, 2019
August 29, 2019 (Rewire News): HHS Launches Another Attach on Abortion Providers Under Guise of 'Conscience Rights," by Dennis Carter:
Rewire News reports that the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services has accused the University of Vermont Medical Center of “intentionally, unnecessarily, and knowingly” scheduling nurses to assist with abortions “against their religious or moral objections." HHS Head Roger Severino claims that these alleged actions violate the Church Amendments, laws from the 1970s that protect the conscience rights of individuals to object to performing or assisting in abortion or sterilization procedures if it is contrary to their religious or moral beliefs. HHS has given the center 30 days to change its religious freedom policies or lose federal funding.
According to Severino, the nurse who filed the claim feared she would lose her job if she opted out of assisting with the abortion. A medical center spokesperson stated that UVM has “robust, formal protections that safeguard both our employees’ religious, ethical and cultural beliefs, and our patients’ right to access safe and legal abortion” and that “employees are protected from discrimination based on any decision they make to opt out of procedures for treatments.” She also stated that UVM promptly investigated the allegations when they were first made and determined that they were unsupported.
Despite UVM’s ongoing discussions with HHS, Severino opted to issue the public statement. This action appears reflective of the direction of the Civil Rights Office, which has prioritized discrimination and religious claims of health care providers rather than discrimination faced by people who seek to access health care services. According to Rewire:
Since Trump entered the White House, OCR officials have transformed the office into a powerful political entity centered on so-called religious freedom. In 2018 Severino launched a health-care discrimination
wing of OCR, known as the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, to defend health-care providers who oppose abortion and do not want to treat LGBTQ people. This case marks the third enforcement action the division has taken to protect “conscience rights,” and it’s first action in defense of an individual health-care worker who objects to participating in abortion care.