Protecting Healthcare Workers Who Oppose Abortion

May 2, 2019

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a final conscience rule today that protects healthcare individuals and entities from providing and participating in services such as abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide procedures that violate their religious and moral beliefs.

President Donald Trump made the announcement today during a speech in the White House Rose Garden to mark the National Day of Prayer.

The conscience rule will be effective 60 days from its final publication and enforced by the agency’s Office of Civil Rights. According to the HHS, the rule requires hospitals, universities, clinics and other institutions that receive funding from federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to certify that they comply with 25 laws passed by Congress that protect conscience rights in healthcare. Those laws allow health providers and entities to opt out of providing, participating in, paying for or referring for healthcare services that they have personal or religious objections.

The final rule fulfills President Trump’s promise to promote and protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious liberty, a promise he made when he signed an executive order in May 2017 protecting religious liberty.  In October 2017, the Department of Justice issued guidance encouraging other Departments, including HHS, to implement and enforce all relevant religious freedom laws.  As a result, in January 2018, following the launch of its new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, HHS announced the proposed conscience rule. 

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