fog
Tuesday February 20th, 2018 4:25AM

New Trump office would protect conscience rights of doctors

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — Reinforcing its strong connection with social conservatives, the Trump administration announced Thursday a new federal office to protect medical providers refusing to participate in abortion, assisted suicide or other procedures on moral or religious grounds.

Leading Democrats and LGBT groups immediately denounced the move, saying "conscience protections" could become a license to discriminate, particularly against gay and transgender people.

The announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services came a day ahead of the annual march on Washington by abortion opponents, who will be addressed via video link by President Donald Trump. HHS put on a formal event in the department's Great Hall, with Republican lawmakers and activists for conscience protections as invited speakers.

The religious and conscience division will be part of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, which enforces federal anti-discrimination and privacy laws. Officials said it will focus on upholding protections already part of federal law. Violations can result in a service provider losing government funding.

No new efforts to expand such protections were announced, but activists on both sides expect the administration will try to broaden them in the future.

Although the HHS civil rights office has traditionally received few complaints alleging conscience violations, HHS Acting Secretary Eric Hargan, painted a picture of clinicians under government coercion to violate the dictates of conscience.

"For too long, too many health care practitioners have been bullied and discriminated against because of their religious beliefs and moral convictions, leading many of them to wonder what future they have in our medical system," Hargan told the audience.

"The federal government and state governments have hounded religious hospitals and the men and women who staff them, forcing them to provide or refer for services that violate their consciences, when they only wish to serve according to their religious beliefs," Hargan added.

After Hargan spoke, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the No. 2 Republican in the House, provided an example of the kind of case the new office should tackle. McCarthy told the audience he has "high hopes" that the "arrogance" of a California law known as AB 775 "will be investigated and resolved quickly."

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.

Although the HHS civil rights office traditionally has gotten a small number of complaints involving religious and conscience rights, the number has grown since Trump was elected.

Office director Roger Severino said that from 2008 to Nov. 2016, HHS received 10 such complaints. Since Trump won, the office has received 34 new complaints. Before his appointment to government service under Trump, Severino was an expert on religious freedom, marriage, and life issues at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

The new HHS office joins the list of administration actions seen as pleasing to social conservatives, including expanded exemptions for employers who object to providing contraceptive coverage, and the White House move to bar military service by transgender people. Those initiatives have run into legal challenges.

Democrats, LGBT organizations and some civil liberties groups were quick to condemn the administration's latest action.

"They are prioritizing providers' beliefs over patients' health and lives," Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. "This administration isn't increasing freedom — they're paving the way for discrimination."

On Capitol Hill, Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., pledged to keep a close eye on the new enforcement office. "Religious freedom should not mean that our health care providers have a license to discriminate or impose their beliefs on others," Pallone said. He is the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over many health care issues.

LGBT-rights organizations suggested some medical providers will be emboldened to shun gay, lesbian and transgender patients.

"LGBT people have already been turned away from hospitals and doctors' offices," said Rachel Tiven, CEO of Lambda Legal. "The Orwellian 'Conscience and Religious Freedom' unit simply provides guidance on how they can get away with it."

But conservatives said the new office will help maintain balance in the health care system. It's a world that has become increasingly secular, even if many of its major institutions sprang from religious charity.

"In the context of health care, Americans have very deep, sincere differences on a number of ethical and moral matters," said Heritage Foundation analyst Melanie Israel. "It's these conscience protections that allow us to work and live alongside each other despite our differences."

Monday marks the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

___

Associated Press writers David Crary and Mark Sherman contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Health, AP Business, AP Health - Women's health, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Health Care
© Copyright 2018 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
New Trump office would protect conscience rights of doctors
On eve of annual anti-abortion march, Trump administration announces new HHS office to protect conscience rights of doctors
3:33PM ( 7 minutes ago )
Lawyer: OJ Simpson is golfing a lot, staying in Las Vegas
O.J. Simpson's lawyer says Simpson isn't planning to move from Las Vegas to Florida like he told state parole officials before he was released in October from Nevada state prison
3:16PM ( 23 minutes ago )
The Latest: Trump campaigns, sort of, for PA lawmaker
The White House says that, despite the president's tweet, he is not going to Pennsylvania Thursday to campaign for a congressional candidate there
3:15PM ( 25 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: Mexico's foreign ministry disputes Trump tweet
Mexico is disputing President Donald Trump's claim that it is the "most dangerous country in the world."
2:20PM ( 1 hour ago )
Congress strains to pass stopgap budget, avert shutdown
Trump's tweet injects confusion into negotiations to avert government shutdown
1:21PM ( 2 hours ago )
Senate Dems question legality of Trump work requirements
Senate Democrats question legality of Trump administration policy that allows work requirements for Medicaid recipients
1:06PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Health
Love in the air: Pope marries couple on papal plane in Chile
It was all in a day's work for the ever-unpredictable Pope Francis as he celebrates the first-ever airborne papal wedding, marrying two flight attendants at 36,000 feet during a flight to northern Chile
3:02PM ( 37 minutes ago )
UK to boost French border but May, Macron disagree on Brexit
The leaders of Britain and France have met to pledge closer cooperation on defense, security and borders after Britain leaves the European Union
2:58PM ( 41 minutes ago )
GoDaddy to sponsor Danica Patrick in 'Danica Double'
Danica Patrick has secured sponsorship money from GoDaddy to race in both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500
2:37PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
The Latest: Rival breast pumps vie for gadget show attention
It's a battle of the breast pumps at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas, where more attention is being given to tech innovations for parenting, pregnancy and women's health
4:05PM ( 6 days ago )
AP Health - Women's health
Morgan Stanley's profits fall 59 percent due to tax bill
Morgan Stanley's earnings fell 59 percent in the fourth quarter as the investment bank had to book $990 million in charges related to the new tax law.
10:34AM ( 5 hours ago )
The Latest: Europe storm: Falling tree kills man in Germany
A falling tree has killed a 59-year-old man at a camping site near the Dutch-German border as a gusty storm lashed parts of Europe
9:18AM ( 6 hours ago )
The Latest: Winter storm causes travel chaos in Germany
Several people have been injured in weather-related accidents in western Germany and air traffic has been suspended at the Cologne-Bonn airport as a winter storm with high winds lashes western Europe
8:48AM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
Trump's first medical checkup as president set for Friday
President Donald Trump will be the patient himself, not the commander in chief comforting them, when he visits the Walter Reed military hospital Friday.
10:16AM ( 6 days ago )
Trump's first medical check-up as president set for Friday
President Donald Trump will be the patient, not the commander in chief comforting them, when he visits the Walter Reed military hospital this week
2:00AM ( 6 days ago )
APNewsBreak: Experts to study prison health care after riot
Delaware officials are hiring independent experts to review inmate access to health care and the prisoner grievance system in the wake of a deadly inmate riot and hostage taking last year at the state's maximum-security prison
12:50PM ( 1 week ago )
AP Business - Health Care
Lawyer: OJ Simpson is golfing a lot, staying in Las Vegas
O.J. Simpson's lawyer says Simpson isn't planning to move from Las Vegas to Florida like he told state parole officials before he was released in October from Nevada state prison
3:16PM ( 23 minutes ago )
The Latest: Trump campaigns, sort of, for PA lawmaker
The White House says that, despite the president's tweet, he is not going to Pennsylvania Thursday to campaign for a congressional candidate there
3:15PM ( 25 minutes ago )
Deputy US marshal killed while serving Pennsylvania warrant
Authorities say a deputy U.S. marshal was shot and killed while serving a warrant in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
3:14PM ( 25 minutes ago )
The Latest: Francis wraps up Chile visit, heads to Peru
Men, women and children from indigenous communities in Peru are making long treks through the Amazon to see Pope Francis when he visits the country
3:13PM ( 26 minutes ago )
Airborne nuptials: Pope marries couple on papal plane
Pope Francis has performed the first-ever airborne papal wedding, marrying two flight attendants on a flight in Chile
3:11PM ( 28 minutes ago )