The Biden administration will overturn a Trump-era rule that protects health care workers from being forced to perform procedures they oppose on religious or moral grounds – such as abortion, assisted suicide and sex-reassignment surgery, according to a new report.
The Trump administration rule, released in 2019, protects religious health care workers “from having to provide, participate in, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for” services they oppose on the basis of conscience. The rule referenced abortion, assisted suicide, sterilization and gender dysphoria as areas that may face objections from health care professionals. The rule was championed by multiple faith-based groups, including the Christian Medical and Dental Associations.
A federal judge in 2019 overturned the rule, saying the Trump-run Department of Health and Human Services did not have statutory authority to implement it.
Even so, the Biden administration is preparing to overturn the rule and could do so in the coming weeks, according to Politico. The news website quoted an HHS spokesperson saying that the rule will be scrapped. “HHS has made clear through the unified regulatory agenda that we are in the rulemaking process,” the spokesperson said.
Planned Parenthood applauded the Biden administration’s move.
“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,” said Jacqueline Ayers, of Planned Parenthood. “We look forward to seeing the details of the new rule and are excited about this step forward.”
But groups that advocate for religious liberty criticized the Biden administration.
“No American should be forced to violate their ethical and religious beliefs,” said Matt Bowman, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom. “Doctors, nurses, and other medical providers should enjoy this same constitutional protection, free to live and work in a manner consistent with their faith.”
The proposed Biden rule “would abandon health care professionals to being forced to perform medical procedures that directly violate their religious beliefs or risk losing their jobs,” Bowman said.
“This is an illegal and gross overreach of executive power,” he added, “and we urge the administration to withdraw this harmful proposal immediately.”
In a 2019 news release, the Trump administration said the rule “protects individuals and health care entities from discrimination on the basis of their exercise of conscience in HHS-funded programs.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Pornpak Khunatorn
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.