HHS launches new division as part of 'conscience and religious freedom' rule: 6 things to know

The Trump administration formed a new HHS Office for Civil Rights division, which offers protections for healthcare workers with religious or moral objections to medical services such as abortions, according to The New York Times.

Here are six things to know.

1. HHS announced the new conscience and religious freedom division Thursday.

2. The new division offers protections for healthcare workers who oppose performing abortions or transgender operations, or other medical services, for religious or moral reasons, according to the report.

3. Federal officials said the division will allow HHS to "more vigorously and effectively" enforce laws related to conscience and religious freedom.

4. Roger Severino, director of the civil rights office, said in a statement: "Laws protecting religious freedom and conscience rights are just empty words on paper if they aren't enforced. No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one's deepest moral or religious convictions, and the new division will help guarantee that victims of unlawful discrimination find justice. For too long, governments big and small have treated conscience claims with hostility instead of protection, but change is coming and it begins here and now."

5. The new division has sparked mixed reactions. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins praised the new division, calling it "another moment in which President Trump's promises are becoming a reality." Mr. Perkins also said it should be an encouragement to healthcare providers with religious or moral objections. However, the American Civil Liberties Union opposed the new division.

"The administration is doubling down on licensing discrimination against women and LGBT people, all in the name of religion. The administration has already shown its hand earlier this year by adopting rules that permit virtually all manner of businesses to refuse to comply with laws providing contraception coverage," Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU, said in a statement.

"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."

6. Announcement of the new division one day prior to the March for Life anti-abortion event in Washington, D.C.



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