Biden administration partially rescinds Trump ‘conscience’ health care proposal

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The Biden administration is proposing a partial rollback of a Trump-era “discretion” rule that was struck down several times in court.

The Trump regime would have allowed health care workers to refuse to provide care that conflicted with religious beliefs.


In a release Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services said the proposed changes would increase access to care.

“No one should be discriminated against because of their religious or moral beliefs, especially when seeking or providing care,” Health Secretary Javier Becerra said in a statement. “The proposed rule strengthens protections for people with religious or moral objections while ensuring access to care for all while keeping the law in mind.”

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The 39-page proposal states that some doctors, nurses and hospitals may object for religious or moral reasons to provide for or refer to abortion or assisted suicide and to respect such objections “respects liberty and human dignity.”

Also, it noted “Patients also have autonomy, rights, and moral and religious beliefs. And sometimes they have health needs[s] urgent. To protect the health and dignity of patients, our health care systems must effectively provide services to all who need them.”

In 2019, under the Trump administration, the department’s Office for Civil Rights issued a regulation that HHS said provided broader definitions, created new compliance rules and amended several laws related to discretionary rights for some federally funded health care. Created a new enforcement mechanism for institutions and providers.

The US Department of Health and Human Services building in Washington on July 13, 2020.
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The 2019 “final rule” was ruled illegal by three federal district courts.

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“In light of these court decisions, and consistent with the Administration’s commitment to protecting federal discretionary and religious nondiscrimination rights while protecting access to care, it [notice of proposed rulemaking] The proposal partially repeals the Department’s 2019 rule while strengthening other procedures already in place to deal with conscience and religious freedom complaints,” HHS explained.

Javier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, speaks during a news conference at HHS Headquarters on June 28, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Office for Civil Rights Director Melanie Fontes Rainer said, “It is important to protect the rights of conscience and enforce the law to combat religious discrimination.” “Today’s proposed rule will strengthen these protections and reinforce our long-standing process for dealing with such discretion and faith-based objections. It will also take steps to ensure that people are aware of their rights. “

Public comments are due 60 days after publication of the notice in the Federal Register.

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