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Members of Congress Ask Court to Protect Conscience Rights of Medical Professionals, Restore HHS Rules

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May 27, 2020

News Release
For Immediate Release: 5.27.20
Contact: Lacey McNiel, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

Members of Congress Ask Court to Protect Conscience Rights of Medical Professionals, Restore HHS Rules
First Liberty Institute files friend-of-the-court brief in key Second Circuit case

Washington, DC—On behalf of seventy-eight members of Congress, First Liberty Institute filed a friend-of-the-court brief in State of New York vs. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, urging the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to reverse a lower court ruling that struck down U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rules providing health care workers with conscience protections.

You can read the brief here.

“The lower court’s decision left health care professionals across America vulnerable to being forced to perform, facilitate, or refer for procedures that violate their conscience,” said Kelly Shackelford, President, CEO, and Chief Counsel for First Liberty Institute.  “HHS rightly implemented rules in accordance to what Congress has passed into law. The court should restore the HHS protections that would ensure healthcare professionals are free to work consistent with their religious beliefs while providing the best care to their patients.”

To ensure compliance with these federal conscience protections, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) promulgated the Conscience Rule in May 2019 to interpret and implement existing federal statutes.  In November, a lower court held that HHS went beyond the statutory language and Congress’s intent in passing the federal conscience protections.  Specifically, the court held that HHS lacked the authority to define statutory terms addressed by the Rule, including “health care entity,” “assist in the performance,” and “discriminate or discrimination.”

According to First Liberty’s brief, “To protect healthcare providers’ ability to practice medicine in accord with their religious beliefs and moral convictions, Congress has repeatedly passed conscience protections—including the Church Amendments, Coats-Snowe Amendment, Weldon Amendment, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)—prohibiting recipients of federal funds from discriminating against healthcare providers who have religious or moral objections to particular procedures, including abortion, sterilization, and physician-assisted suicide.  These provisions are all clear: federally-funded entities cannot discriminate against healthcare providers who have conscientious objections to these procedures.”

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

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