President Trump gives new religious protections to health workers

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Roger Severino, the head of the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights, has actively opposed civil rights protections for minority communities.

"This administration isn't increasing freedom-they're paving the way for discrimination", said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, in an announcement.

Although the administration claims the new office is meant to protect religious beliefs, it will nearly surely function to license discrimination against women, LGBT people, and others.

And a clause in a foreign aid allocation bill, first passed in 1968 and renewed each year since, barred discrimination against foreign aid grant applicants who offer natural family planning on account or religious or conscientious commitments.

Opponents used the hash tag #RXforDiscrimination to describe the action. Freedom of religion is at the core of our national fabric and our Constitution.

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"This decision-not so coincidentally timed around the March for Life-is a cheap attempt by President Trump to pander to ultraconservative special interests that got him into power", said Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, the group's vice president, in a statement.

The American Medical Association, the largest organization that represents US doctors, declined to comment, saying it had not seen the written proposal from HHS.

Asma Uddin, a fellow at the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations and a Muslim, spoke at an HHS press conference about the need for protection against what she said was a variety of ways women are forced to violate their conscience. "Physicians must respect basic civil liberties and not discriminate against individuals".

Lambda Legal, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, already represents several transgender patients, including a New Jersey transgender man suing a Catholic hospital for allegedly denying a procedure related to his gender reassignment on religious grounds.

There was also no discussion of how the new division opens the door for health care workers and institutions to discriminate against transgender people, but there is reason to fear that's just what they intend to do.

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Physicians for Reproductive Health posted a tweet quoting one of its physicians. In October, the Trump Administration issued interim final rules to restrict access to birth control by creating a broad exemption allowing virtually any employer or university with a religious or moral objection to refuse to cover contraception for their employees or students.

Criticism from other quarters was wide-ranging.

Although the new Health and Human Services division has been created, it's unclear exactly how it will approach its mission. "It could even kill them", Wirth said in an announcement.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced the creation of a new and unsafe division of the Office of Civil Rights today that will allow healthcare providers to deny care to LGBT people and pregnant women based on their religious beliefs. Text there notes that "HHS ensures that people have equal access and opportunities to participate in certain healthcare and human services programs without unlawful discrimination".

Individual health care professionals will have the option of lodging a formal complaint with the Civil Rights Office, which can in turn "initiate compliance reviews, conduct investigations.and use enforcement tools otherwise available in civil rights law to address violations and resolve complaints". But that freedom does not give anyone a right to harm others, including by way of an exemption from our nation's laws that bar discrimination and that protect our health.

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