Date: 2nd May 2019
President Trump’s administration has come up with a new ruling on religious conscience protection for health care workers. The rule, which was finalised on Thursday, includes clauses involving health care workers operating on cases of abortion, assisted suicide and sterilization.
Under the new rule, medical institutions cannot force health care workers to perform certain medical procedures if their religion holds it morally wrong. However, the rule did attract criticism from various communities like that of LGBTQ and civil and reproductive rights groups.
These communities feared that giving health care such rights over religious liberty would make marginalised groups vulnerable. This may result in degradation of health care services for women and transgender patients.
According to a statement from the Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights on Thursday, the previous conscience rule of 2011 was “inadequate” and hence has been replaced.
The rule has been in discussion since January 2018 when it was first introduced. Besides that, a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division was established in the Department of Health and Human Services which would assist in the enforcement of the new rule.
On the other hand, the CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Vanita Gupta denounced the rule. She added that the rule may lead to state-supported discrimination against various groups and communities. It is because the allowance given to deny engaging in certain procedures would make it easy to marginalize groups and communities.
Deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, Louise Melling, said that religious freedom does not include discriminating on the basis of gender or gender expression. It is a clear case of denying medical services to patients on the basis of their gender.
Other concerns regarding the rule included the potential conflict between the rights and responsibilities of health care workers if the rule is enforced.