WASHINGTON — The Trump Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is now creating a Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom, according to multiple reports.
NPR reported that the division is to protect doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to take part in procedures like abortion, or treat certain people – especially transgender patients — because of moral or religious objections. The announcement came out officially on Thursday.
“No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions, and the new division will help guarantee that victims of unlawful discrimination find justice,” Roger Severino, the director of HHS’ Office for Civil Rights, told the radio network.
This reverses an Obama police that required health workers to treat transgender people or people who have had or are seeking abortions. Organization have already started their opposition. “Medical standards, not religious belief, should guide medical care. Denying patients health care is not liberty. Choosing your patients based on their gender or gender expression is not freedom,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement to NPR.
“The announcement of this division indicates that the Office of Civil Rights is making ‘religious freedom and conscience rights’ a priority,” said One Iowa Executive Director Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel in a statement. “While this sounds good in theory, it is all too common for phrases like ‘religious freedom’ and ‘conscience’ to be used to make discrimination against LGBTQ people sound more palatable.”
A complaint to the new division is already in the pipeline. According to the Rockford Register-Star, a Rockford, Ill. pediatric nurse has claimed she was forced from her job in 2015 for her objection to abortion mandates. Sandra Rojas, a pediatric nurse who worked 18 years at the Winnebago County Health Department, objected to a requirement that nurses be trained to make referrals to abortion providers and to help women obtain abortion drugs. A hearing is set for Feb. 15.