Healthcare providers who refuse to treat patients in need just because of their religious or moral beliefs are set to have a new defending regulation in the US.
It has been reported that the Trump Administration is working to protect doctors who refuse to treat patients if the treatment goes against their religious beliefs. The Department of Health and Human Services is already busy developing Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom. The entity would protect nurses, doctors and similar other healthcare workers who adamantly refuse to conduct medical procedures such as abortion. This also includes healthcare professionals refusing to certain patients because of religious objections.
During the announcement of the new division, HHS’s Office for Civil Rights Director said, “Never forget that religious freedom is a primary freedom, that it is a civil right that deserves enforcement and respect.”
The formation of this new division actually reverses a policy that was passed in Obama-era as it barred doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers from refusing to treat people seeking abortions and transgender individuals. This particular rule by Obama administration was actually challenged in court by a Texas-based Christian healthcare organization the Franciscan Alliance. Also, a judge even blocked its enforcement as particular case played out in court, in 2016.
The new division seems to be mainly aimed at keeping healthcare workers with religious beliefs from participating in abortion procedures. The further division cites a federal regulation passed in 2011 that enforces conscience protections and mentions abortion more than 30 times.
American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Legal Director Louise Melling said that those conscience objections can actually be expanded to allow doctors and health workers to refuse services to lesbian, gay, and transgender people.
She said in an interview, “This administration has taken a very expansive view of religious liberty. It understands religious liberty to override antidiscrimination principles.”
Nonetheless, HHS maintains that it will not allow gender discrimination as it has been banned by federal law. To this, Melling questions whether the Trump administration includes sexual orientation and gender identity in the definition of gender.