HHS Created An Office For Religious Freedom, And It's Controversial

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An HHS press release stated the new division will "more vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom, the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights".

OCR Director Roger Severino said, "no one should be forced to choose between helping sick people" and one's "moral or religious convictions".

As a Heritage Foundation scholar, Severino expressed anti-transgender views, such as opposition to allowing transgender people in the USA military and the Obama administration's litigation against North Carolina's anti-trans bathroom law House Bill 2.

That law, which requires anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to post information about abortion and other services, is the subject of a free-speech challenge brought by the pregnancy centers that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Acting Secretary Eric Hargan, at left, speaks with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy at a news conference announcing a new division on Conscience and Religious Freedom at the Department of Health and Human Services January 18, 2018. James Lankford, R-Okla.

"I don't know of a single example of a doctor who "refuses" to 'treat transgender patients.' I do know of some examples of doctors who can't do sex-reassignment therapies because they think they are bad medicine, "tweeted Anderson on Thursday morning". However, the American Civil Liberties Union opposed the new division. "And now we've come to today, where we see that health care, especially with the Office of Civil Rights at HHS, is the next area where the issues of conscience and the issues of life and death are coming to the fore".

"For too long too many of these health care practitioners have been bullied and discriminated against due to their religious beliefs and moral conviction", acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan said Thursday.

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But the division also brought some controversy, provoking a small protest outside HHS offices by liberal feminist groups. The number of people who identify as LGBT is also growing.

Establishing the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division represents a dramatic policy reversal for HHS's civil rights office.

Denying patients health care is not liberty. "Religious freedom should not mean that our health care providers have a license to discriminate or impose their beliefs on others", Pallone said. The new "Conscience and Religious Freedom Division" (CRFD) will focus entirely on ensuring providers are allowed to opt out of providing care when they have objections, which has huge implications for patients' access to abortion, LGBTQ people, and people living with HIV. "Americans should not be forced to choose between their faith and their desire to help patients". That policy was never carried out because of an injunction by a Texas judge. But according to NBC News, this reasoning is based on essentially nothing, since trans health care costs the DOD very little in comparison with the Department's total budget, and the health cost of cisgender people in the military.

"At least in my circles and experience, this isn't a need that healthcare providers have felt like they had".

"Health care workers have a professional and ethical obligation to provide health care to all who need it" Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.

Some fear there will be doctors who deny fertility treatments to lesbian couples and pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for certain types of contraceptives, the Times reported.

She added discrimination in healthcare settings "remains a grave and widespread problem for many vulnerable populations and contributes to a wide range of health disparities". Trump may address the creation of the new division in remarks to the crowd.

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