The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a proposed rule that will eliminate conscience protections contained in its previous 2019 rule for healthcare workers in hospitals and other facilities supported by federal taxpayer dollars.
While HHS describes the proposed rule as a “New Strengthened Conscience and Religious Nondiscrimination” document, its effect is exactly the opposite.
And the Left is predictably applauding the proposal.
Conscience rights of healthcare workers are guaranteed by several federal statutes, but (HHS, a federal agency, is charged with enforcement of those statutes. From time to time the department issues rules “interpreting” those statutes. HHS – which answers to the President of the United States – has either sided with the conscience concerns of healthcare workers or the Left’s sexual agenda, depending on which political party controlled the White House at the time.
The current controversy developed following a 2019 attempt by HHS to strengthen the interpretation of conscience rules for healthcare workers during the Trump administration. The 2019 rule, which contained a strong enforcement mechanism – including revoking federal funds from hospitals willfully violating the conscience rights of its employees – was immediately challenged in several federal courts and blocked by court rulings.
The 2022 proposed rule from HHS retains some of the 2019 rule but guts its most important protections.
In its notice announcing the proposed rule, HHS justifies eliminating those protections by stating,
“[T]hey are redundant or confusing, because they undermine the balance Congress struck between safeguarding conscience rights and protecting access to health care access, or because significant questions have been raised as to their legal authorization.”
Make no mistake, however, as to what is going on here. The Left wants to force healthcare workers to carry out its agenda on abortion, gender ideology, assisted suicide and whatever else comes next.
The ACLU, unsurprisingly, was quick to applaud the proposed rule.
“The Biden administration took an important first step toward repealing the most harmful aspects of this dangerous rule,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, in a press release, referring to the 2019 rule.
Pay attention to what the ACLU says next:
“Other people’s beliefs do not give them license to discriminate, to deny essential care, or to cause harm to others. Everybody deserves the ability to get the essential health care they need regardless of who they are or where they get care” (emphasis added).
“Other people’s beliefs.” Don’t miss that phrase.
That’s a secular euphemism for people of faith. Or even simply doctors who believe the Hippocratic Oath demands a higher code of conduct than what abortion or gender dogma calls for.
And, if you’re wondering what the vague phrase “essential health care” might be, the ACLU helpfully provides examples:
“The  rule could have allowed a hospital receptionist to refuse to schedule an appointment for a patient seeking gender-affirming care or a paramedic to refuse to take a patient seeking an emergency abortion to the hospital.”
Forget the wildly improbable examples of conscience the ACLU uses in its press release. Who it’s really hoping to compel to participate against their will are the doctors and nurses with religious, moral and ethical reasons for refusing to kill tiny human beings in the womb, or amputate completely healthy body parts in the name of “gender-affirming” surgeries.
Elections have consequences, and many federal agencies like HHS take their policy directions from the changing political ideology of the White House. The current proposed rule is not a step forward, but massive move backward, in the effort to protect the conscience rights of healthcare workers.
For a period of 60 days, HHS is seeking public comments on its proposed rule. You can express your opinion and comments by clicking here to learn what your options are, and if you choose the online link, it will take you here.
Photo from Shutterstock.