Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights that is meant to restore federal enforcement of the nation’s laws that protect the rights of conscience and religious freedom. The Heritage Foundation’s research associate Melanie Israel had the following statement on the new division:
“For more than 40 years, federal law has protected the conscience rights of all Americans in the context of health care. These protections have allowed for a diversity of values in health care and ensured that individuals can work and live according to their moral and religious beliefs.
When conscience violations and discrimination occur, it is critical that the administration responds with robust enforcement of federal law. This new HHS division will help ensure that health care professionals enjoy the same rights they have had for decades—to not face coercion or discriminatory actions if they decide not to participate in certain procedures because of moral or religious objections.”