Department of Health and Human Services(HHS) announced a new division within the Office of Civil Rights(OCR), the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division. The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division has been established to support federal enforcement of “religious freedoms,” according to an HHS Press Release.
The new division will protect doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who refuse to treat people — LGBT people — or take part in procedures on religious grounds. This is not a surprising move under the Trump Administration, as Transgender rights have been a favorite target in its first year, as numerous departments have aimed at undoing Obama-era protections.
The formation of this new division dramatically changes the function of the OCR. Historically, the OCR’s goal has been to prevent discrimination, but under the Trump administration, their new goal is to defend it.
“Medical standards, not religious belief, should guide medical care,” Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU), said in a written statement. Speaking on the goal of the division, Ms. Melling said “We may not know exactly what this new division will look like in practice, but we do know that this means they prioritize religious liberty over the health and civil rights of women, transgender people, and others. They are prioritizing providers’ beliefs over patients’ health and lives. This administration isn’t increasing freedom — they’re paving the way for discrimination.”