The Trump administration announced a new rule on Thursday, protecting the right of doctors, nurses, insurers, and hospitals to opt out of providing services that conflict with their religious beliefs such as abortion or assisted suicide.
“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,” said Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Director Roger Severino in a statement. “Protecting conscience and religious freedom not only fosters greater diversity in healthcare, it’s the law.”
When President Trump signed an executive order in May 2017 protecting religious liberty, he promised to protect conscientious objections. In 2018, the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division of the OCR was established at HHS to investigate these types of violations previously ignored by the Obama administration.
This rule new fulfills that E.O. by allowing the existing laws protecting conscientious objections previously passed by Congress to be fully enforced as any other civil rights violation. The rule also specifies that hospitals or entities who receive federal funding from HHS must certify that they are in compliance with OCR.
Pro-life groups like Susan B. Anthony List praised the new regulations, saying they are necessary so that medical workers don’t lose their jobs over their religious beliefs.
“No one should be forced to participate in life-ending procedures like abortion or similar activities that go against their religious beliefs or moral convictions.” said Jeanne Mancini, President of March for Life, in a statement.
Severino emphasized that this new rule will give patients more options and more diversity when it comes to choosing health care providers. When developing the rule, OCR received over 242,000 comments from the public. Severino said they discovered that less medical students were choosing to go into the OBGYN field over potential services they could be forced to provide.
“Bullying religious people out of health care creates less options,” he said.