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The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division May Affect Your Health

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Anyone who cares about their personal health care probably heard about a massive change made to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) a couple of weeks ago – and it might just affect you.

On January 18, 2018, the Trump Administration announced the beginning of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights.

The point of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division is, according a HSS press release, “to restore federal enforcement of our nation’s laws that protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom.”[1]

On paper, this means that the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division can protect health care providers from facing discrimination based on their religion.

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With the new division in place, the HSS will now have “the focus it needs to more vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom, the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights.”[1]

However, people are criticizing the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division’s loose language and claiming that health care providers may use it to provide substandard health care for certain patients.

So, Who Is the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division Really Good For?

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As reported by Bustle, “the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division could get behind medical professionals who refuse to administer a vaccine to which they object on religious grounds.”[2]

Theoretically, people seeking medical attention – people who also have a conscience and religious freedom – should also be backed by the new HSS Office for Civil Rights division.

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Health care providers and people alike, for example, may:

  • May not want to buy an insurance plan that provides for birth control if they’re Catholic or Christian
  • May not want to get vaccines containing aborted human tissues, pig products, or any other animal products if they’re Muslims, Orthodox Jews, have dietary restrictions, or conscientious parents who simply do not believe in vaccines
  • Deny patients doctor-assisted suicide if they’re Christian, Jewish, and Muslims

So, the new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division seems to serve the people, too, because it puts conscience and religious freedom back into health care. Kent Heckenlively, a teacher, attorney, and author put it this way:[3]

“If you feel that your religious freedom or your conscience rights have been [discriminated against] by the medical system, you have an advocate now at Health and Human Services.

Now, we all have a friend at [HSS]. We can smash these vaccine mandates through this office of conscience and religious freedom. This is how we are gonna turn Big Pharma into Little Pharma.”

Why People Are Still Worried About the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division

It’s a valid question. Many non-medical professionals are criticizing the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, claiming that it could enable legal discrimination in health care. There are two reasons why.[2]

  1. Instead of focusing on supporting patients, the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division seems to emphasize the protection of medical practitioners.
  2. The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division does not intend to make medical practitioners refer patients to someone else, according to critics.

The HSS Office for Civil Rights’ Director Roger Severino said, “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.”[1]

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So, put those words to the test. If you have felt your conscience or religious freedom discriminated against in the past, use the complaint portal to make your voice heard! Just visit the HHS Office for Civil Rights site where you can file a Conscience and Religious Freedom complaint.

“If you believe that a covered entity discriminated against you (or someone else) on the basis of conscience or religious freedom, coerced you to violate your conscience or religious beliefs, or burdened your free exercise of religion, you may file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights. You may file a complaint for yourself, your organization, or for someone else.”

[1] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018, January 19). HHS Announces New Conscience and Religious Freedom Division. Retrieved January 31, 2018, from https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2018/01/18/hhs-ocr-announces-new-conscience-and-religious-freedom-division.html

[2] Hunter-Hart, M. (2018, January 24). 4 Things to Know About Trump’s Religious Health Office, If You Ever Go to The Doctor. Retrieved January 31, 2018, from https://www.bustle.com/p/what-is-the-conscience-religious-freedom-division-how-trumps-new-health-office-could-affect-you-8000786

[3] Heckenlively, A. K. (2018, January 20). President Trump Drops NUCLEAR BOMB on Vaccine Mandates… Retrieved January 31, 2018, from http://bolenreport.com/president-trump-drops-nuclear-bomb-vaccine-mandates/

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