FFRF of Georgia

New Trump rule will sanction religion-based discrimination

Written on 05/03/2019
Lauryn Seering

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is strenuously opposed to a new Department of Health and Human Services religious rule that could possibly endanger millions of Americans.

The rule, announced by President Trump as the pinnacle of his National Day of Prayer event in the Rose Garden, allows, among other things, health care workers to refuse to treat patients under the guise of religious freedom.

“Just today, we finalized new protections of conscience rights for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students and faith-based charities,” Trump said in his announcement

When the rule was proposed last year, FFRF charged that it sought to solve a problem that does not exist. Health care workers already have sufficient legal protections against being forced to perform medical procedures that violate their conscience, so long as patients are given notice and have adequate access to the care they seek.

The rule sweepingly defines what activities would be protected. For instance, the term “Health care Program or Activity” includes any “service related to health or wellness whether directly, through payments, grants, contracts, or other instruments, through insurance, or otherwise.”

The rule allows discrimination in the name of religion. Civil rights violations can be carried out with impunity, so long as the violator cites a religious justification. This needlessly jeopardizes the medical needs of vulnerable patients, particularly women and LGBTQ individuals.

“The list of workers the division will ‘protect’ is theoretically endless: the anesthesiologist who thinks that an abortion to save the life of the pregnant woman shouldn’t be performed or an ambulance driver with the same objection; the pharmacist opposed to birth control who won’t process prescriptions or even refer to another pharmacist on site; the ER staffer who refuses rape victims the morning-after-pill; the nurse who doesn’t want to run an IV line for a transgender patient; the physician who refuses to treat a Muslim patient; or a medical worker to won’t adhere to a patient’s end-of-life directives,” say FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor. “These are civil rights concerns for the patients involved, not the medical workers.”

FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew L. Seidel reveals the real intent of the new rule.

“This rule does not protect the religious liberty of doctors and patients, it instead imposes religious dogma on patients,” he says. “The right to practice your religion ends where my rights begin; you don’t get to use your medical license to impose your dogma on anyone else.”

The religious objections of health care providers can be handled without sacrificing the availability of quality care to patients in need. The rule emboldens people in that profession to deny care based on their religious beliefs.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit association with more than 31,000 members nationwide. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public about issues relating to nontheism. Since 1978, FFRF has been on the forefront of combatting policies that promote discrimination under the guise of protecting religious freedom.