Trump Creates New ‘Conscience and Religious Freedom Division’ at HHS to Support Discrimination by Health Care Professionals

 
 
 

"No One Should Be Forced to Choose Between Helping Sick People and Living by One's Deepest Moral or Religious Convictions" Division's Chief Announces

The Office of Civil Rights at President Donald Trump's Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) has a new division created to help ensure discrimination by medical professionals who chose to cite their religious or moral convictions when refusing to treat certain patients or when refusing to perform certain functions. The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division was officially announced in an HHS press release Thursday.

Transgender people, women seeking contraception or abortion services, gay, lesbian, bisexual people, people living with HIV/AIDS seem particularly at risk for further - and now federally-sanctioned - discrimination under the Trump administration.

"No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one's deepest moral or religious convictions," said Roger Severino (photo), Director of the HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Severino, whose resume includes positions at far right wing organizations, has a long history of publicly opposing transgender people.

In short, under the Trump administration's new policy and new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, health care workers could, for example, refuse to treat a transgender patient, just because they are transgender. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people all could be refused a doctor's appointment or told at an emergency room they have to seek help elsewhere. Unmarried sexually-active women could be refused contraception, or forced to shop around for a doctor willing to perform a medically-necessary abortion. Same-sex couples seeking a pediatrician for a newborn child could also be refused.

NCRM first reported Wednesday that the complaint portal website for the Office for Civil Rights at HHS had already been updated to include greatly expanded language on Federal Conscience and Religious Freedom Laws.

Invited guests attending Thursday morning's announcement include Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) who vigorously pushed her now-failed bill that would have banned the Pentagon from spending taxpayer funds to support medically-necessary treatment of transgender service members.

Also invited is Senator James Lankford (R-OK) who infamously said in 2012, "race and sexual preferences are two different things. One is a behavior-related and preference-related and one is something inherently — skin color, something obvious, that kind of stuff."

Both GOP lawmakers have ties to the Family Research Council.

"Severino is a defender of the discredited practice of conversion therapy, argued transgender service members 'dishonors' the military, and insisted that anti-LGBTQ discrimination is 'based not on any sort of hatred but, in fact, out of love,'" GLAAD noted in a statement Thursday.

"Any healthcare worker who has moral objections to providing medically necessary care to an entire vulnerable population is in the wrong line of work," Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said. "Denying a transgender person - or any person - life saving care if they walk into an emergency room is far from a moral act, it is unjust and dangerous. Trump, Pence, and Trump's appointees have tried time and again to establish blatantly bigoted policies that harm transgender and gender non-conforming Americans, and history will neither forget nor forgive this Administration's attacks on its own people."

The Catholic Health Association says that "the Catholic health ministry is the largest group of nonprofit health care providers in the nation. Every day, one in six patients in the U.S. is cared for in a Catholic hospital." The organization represents health care facility operators that employ nearly 750,000 health care workers. Due to a rash of mergers many hospitals that appear secular are actually controlled by religious organizations.

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