U.S. health agency finalizes conscience and religious freedom rule

Donald Trump made the speech during a National Day of Prayer dinner gathering in the State Dining

The HHS' Office for Civil Rights issued the 440-page final rule, which offers protections for providers, health insurers and employers that decline to provide, participate in, pay for, provide coverage of or offer referrals for services that violate their religious or moral beliefs. Those stakeholders have included Planned Parenthood, the Alliance Defending Freedom, Americans United for Life, the New York City mayor's office, the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law.

The proposed conscience rule was submitted in January 2018 alongside the Department of Health and Human Services creation of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within its civil rights office. "By contrast, this administration is simultaneously trying to restrict universal access to care through attacks on the ACA and expand the authorization for denials of care by religious providers".

The Trump administration on Thursday announced a new rule that "protects" health care entities and individuals who object to abortion on religious grounds.

"Bullying religious people out of health care creates less options", he said.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said that past year the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division of the Office of Civil Rights "was established at HHS to investigate and address conscience violations - an essential step to protect pro-life doctors and nurses like Cathy DeCarlo, who was forced to assist in a late-term abortion or lose her job". "The government should protect all patients from discrimination, not make it easier for those in the health care system to discriminate". And it requires applicants for HHS federal financial assistance to provide assurances and certifications of compliance.

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"In 1952, President Harry Truman and the Congress formally established this National Day of Prayer and set [it] aside each year for the American people to turn to God in prayer and meditation", Pence said.

"In a 2009 survey of 2,865 members of faith‐based medical associations, 39% reported having faced pressure or discrimination from administrators or faculty based on their moral, ethical, or religious beliefs", the rule said.

The rule overrides a 2011 version that the Trump administration regards as inadequate to enforce these conscience protections. "It completed that rescission in 2011. since 2011, conscience and coercion in health care have been the subjects of significant litigation at the state and local level".

"We are giving these laws life with this regulation", said Severino, saying it's no different from civil rights statutes enforced in daily life through government regulation and oversight.

"Perhaps the most objectionable aspect of this rule is that it puts the personal beliefs of healthcare providers above their sworn duties to follow science, give all medically accurate information, and serve their patients", added Magda Houlberg, MD, Chief Clinical Officer at Howard Brown Health. The proposal was published on January 26, 2018, and HHS said it received more than 242,000 comments by the March 27, 2018, deadline. It applies to skilled nursing facilities, continuing care retirement communities, residential intellectual and developmental disability facilities and other residential care facilities, such as group homes, among other types of entities, the agency said. "That principle is enshrined in countless laws and regulations but has been violated for far too long".

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