The Center Square

HHS Takes Fire For Proposing To Roll Back Trump-Era Conscience Protections

(The Center Square)

U.S. Health and Human Services has proposed a controversial rule change that would roll back Trump-era conscience protections for healthcare workers.

Congress already has laws on the books to “protect the rights of individuals, entities, and health care entities to refuse to perform, assist in the performance of, or undergo certain health care services or research activities to which they may object for religious, moral, ethical, or other reasons.”

How HHS interprets and enforces that law, though, is up for debate.

The Trump administration rolled out a new HHS rule in 2019 to strengthen those protections and the enforcement of them.

Now the Biden administration is trying to roll back those changes. Biden’s HHS published the rule change in January, and public comment closed Monday.

HHS cited arguments by various critics of the rule, saying the 2019 rule would hinder “patients’ ability to access” abortions and said it was “overly expansive and incongruous with medical professionalism, among other concerns.”

Critics have pushed back, saying the Biden administration’s changes will expand abortion, make the law more vague, put more power in the hands of HHS, and lead to discrimination against Americans.

Related: Biden’s HHS Giving $4.5M to Train on ‘Implicit Bias’

On Monday, 26 members of Congress submitted a comment on the rule in a joint letter, saying the Biden administration’s proposed change “leaves gaps in the investigation and enforcement process, and ignores the balance Congress struck when it provided unqualified rights of conscience.”

“Instead of supporting proposed legislation like the Conscience Protection Act to allow victims of discrimination to also have their day in court, HHS is blocking possible legal remedy for victims of discrimination by dropping enforcement actions and clear mechanisms for investigation and enforcement, and making it harder for any further discrimination claims to be filed, investigated, and remedied,” the lawmakers wrote.

Conscience protections have been in the spotlight in recent years since COVID vaccine mandates left many workers, those in the healthcare industry in particular, forced to take the vaccine or risk losing their job.

With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the abortion debate has also heightened the tension on the issue as healthcare workers unwilling to perform abortions have faced obstacles.

“The Proposed Rule claims that ‘our health care systems must effectively deliver services – including safe, legal abortions – to all who need them in order to protect patients’ health and dignity,'” the lawmakers wrote. “Leaving aside that the current Administration has focused immense attention on promoting and paying for abortion, including at times, in violation of federal and state law, such a claim will only lead to further diminution of conscience rights provided by Congress.”

“It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that in the wake of the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, HHS has still prioritized abortion access over nearly anything else, including following and enforcing the law,” they added. 

Related: HHS Taxpayer-Funded Transgender Surgery Policies Under Fire

The lawmakers called on HHS to strengthen, not weaken, its enforcement of conscience violations.

“The lack of enforcement is evidenced not only by the failure to investigate and prosecute conscience violations by HHS in the last several years, but also the decision by HHS to walk back enforcement actions initiated by the previous administration, as detailed below,” the comment said.

Critics said the rule change could leave countless Americans open to discrimination with little legal remedy.

“Without strong conscience protections, health care professionals across America risk discrimination for holding to their religious convictions,” said Justin Butterfield, Deputy General Counsel for the First Liberty Institute, which also officially commented on the rule. “The proposed HHS rules would eviscerate current protections that uphold the rights of healthcare professionals and the ethical integrity of the medical profession.”

Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.

The Center Square

View Comments

Recent Posts

LinkedIn Censors GOP Presidential Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy for Commenting on Biden’s Ties to China

GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is everywhere spreading his message of anti-woke far and wide,…

3 days ago

Oakland Teachers Still Strike Despite Up to $113,000 in Base Salary

By Adam Andrzejewski for RealClearInvestigations Teachers in the Oakland Unified School District began their third…

3 days ago

Biden CBP Denies Government is Providing Financial Support to Illegal Immigrants, Gets Immediately Slapped With Fact Checks

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) denied that the federal government provides help or…

4 days ago

Marco Rubio: No Commercial Real Estate Bailouts

By Sen. Marco Rubio for RealClearPolitics In the mid-2000s, small-town Minnesota resident Charles Marohn saw an upscale…

4 days ago

WATCH: An Exasperated Jake Tapper Delivers ‘Horrible’ News For Biden – 66% of Americans Think His Reelection Would Be ‘Disaster’ or ‘Setback’ to America

Jake Tapper was nearly beside himself as he delivered "horrible" polling numbers for President Biden…

4 days ago

House Republicans Vote to Overturn Biden’s Student Loan Bailout

By Casey Harper (The Center Square) House Republicans voted 218-203 Wednesday to overturn President Joe…

4 days ago