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Biden’s HHS set to repeal Trump rule granting exemptions for religious medical workers


The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is in the process of changing a rule made by the Trump administration that would have allowed medical professionals to refuse to perform procedures and services, such as abortion, physician-assisted suicide, and gender reassignment surgery, if it violated their religious convictions.

Quick Facts

A Politico report explained that three people familiar with the rulemaking said that HHS is planning to do away with the rule. An HHS spokesperson confirmed the report, saying, “HHS has made clear through the unified regulatory agenda that we are in the rulemaking process.” 

The Trump rule would have permitted healthcare workers to refuse to perform services, including abortions, assisted suicide, contraception, gender reassignment surgery, and more, if they had a religious objection. They also could have filed a claim with the Civil Rights Office if their rights of conscience were violated.

Former Civil Rights Office Director Roger Severino said at the time the rule was made, “This rule ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the healthcare field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life. Protecting conscience and religious freedom not only fosters greater diversity in healthcare, it’s the law.”

Many, including pro-abortion groups, opposed the rule and sued to stop it. U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer agreed, ruling against the proposed protection. He wrote that the rule “represents a classic solution in search of a problem.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) responded to the court ruling by saying, “Today’s decision is an important victory against the Trump administration’s cruel and unlawful attempts to roll back critical patient protections. Everyone is entitled to their religious beliefs, but religious beliefs do not include a license to discriminate, to deny essential care, or to cause harm to others.”

Leila Abolfazli, the director of federal reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center, said, “There is so much to unravel. I’m encouraged that they have been working through all these pieces.”

Jacqueline Ayers, the senior vice president of policy, organizing and campaigns for Planned Parenthood, which joined the suit against the rule, said, “As state politicians continue to strip people of their sexual and reproductive rights and freedoms, it’s imperative that the Biden-Harris administration revoke this discriminatory policy and help ensure people can access the health care and information they need when they need it.” Ayers added, “We look forward to seeing the details of the new rule and are excited about this step forward.”

If Trump’s rule was little more than “a solution in search of a problem,” why is the Biden administration so keen on dismantling it? One primary reason: To destroy the Trump administration’s pro-life accomplishments. 

The truth is that the Trump administration’s rule never should have been blocked. The rule didn’t allow healthcare workers to refuse emergency treatment because of someone’s ethnicity, sex, or LGBT status; it simply stopped people from being compelled to violate their beliefs to perform non-vital services that go against their religious convictions. Take abortion, for example. It is not an essential service in most cases, but to most Christians it is murder. The rule would have prevented a health care provider from being forced to either commit murder or quit their job.

Yet despite the fact that the rule was already blocked, pro-abortion groups want it revoked to erase any memory of a rule that is pro-life in spirit and allows freedom of conscience to be the standard for healthcare providers in their daily jobs. 

What specific changes Biden’s HHS will make is unclear, but what is clear is that just the blocking of a religious liberty rule isn’t all they have in mind. The only discrimination present at the moment is discrimination against religious medical employees. The left wants Americans to believe that transgender services, abortions, euthanasia, and other morally controversial procedures and treatments are necessary healthcare but hateful bigots, i.e., Christian doctors and nurses, are trying to deny that healthcare to those who need it. In reality, the left is forcing religious medical workers to perform actions that are reprehensible to them.

Religious freedom is promised to every American, no matter where they work, and it seems the HHS may be ready to renege on that promise.