First Liberty Files Comment Supporting Conscience Protections for Healthcare Professionals

March 10, 2023
Christian Medical | First Liberty Institute

by Jorge Gomez • 4 min read

First Liberty submitted public comments this week in opposition to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed rules that lessen federal protection for the conscience rights of health care professionals.

Justin Butterfield, Deputy General Counsel, said:

“Without strong conscience protections, health care professionals across America risk discrimination for holding to their religious convictions. The proposed HHS rules would eviscerate current protections that uphold the rights of healthcare professionals and the ethical integrity of the medical profession. No health care worker should be forced to choose between their religious convictions and serving as healthcare professionals—a profession that many of them chose because of their religiously motivated desire to serve those in need.”

Our comment was signed by three First Liberty attorneys, Justin Butterfield, Christine Pratt, and Maya Noronha, all of whom were involved in drafting or implementing the current rules protecting rights of conscience adopted during the Trump administration.

According to the comment, “the proposed changes hinder both religious freedom and transparency and will ultimately harm both health care employers and employees. Permitting increased hurdles for religious healthcare professionals reduces access to healthcare generally by reducing the supply of healthcare professionals and reduces access particularly to religious healthcare professionals, who provide an invaluable benefit to patients of faith, particularly in minority communities.”

This is the latest in a growing and long list of policies adopted by Biden’s HHS that pose a threat to religious liberty.

HHS also put forward a rule commonly known as the “transgender mandate,” which would force millions of religious health care professionals and institutions to participate in “gender-transition” surgeries—all while allowing exceptions from such procedures for secular reasons. First Liberty also delivered a compelling 42-page public comment explaining that this rule would be disastrous for Americans of faith in health care.

The department also recently announced new rules regarding the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate. The proposed regulations would end Trump-era protections for employers with moral convictions. Ending protections for moral convictions is a direct attack on the freedom of conscience and could spell disaster for religious liberty. This policy change could force employers and business owners to violate their conscience. HHS estimates that more than 100 employers and roughly 125,000 workers would be affected.

The Biden administration is consistently finding ways to target anyone who desires to live and work in a manner consistent with their faith. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra’s record shows he’s no friend of religious freedom. Instead of broadening protections for religious freedom, his policies have done more to narrow them and make it more difficult for faith-based groups to operate consistently with their beliefs.

In America, healthcare providers should not be forced to violate their conscience. Using the administrative state to target, harass, and punish people because of their religious beliefs is wrong, and in many cases it’s illegal and unconstitutional. This vindictive approach betrays our historic commitment to the idea that Americans should not be forced to violate their deeply held religious or moral convictions.

First Liberty will continue to keep you updated and informed about actions in our nation’s capital that impact you and your family’s religious liberty.

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