“Just today we finalized new protections of conscience rights for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students and faith-based charities”,Trump told an interfaith audience in the White House Rose Garden. The objective is to protect all health professionals when, “for moral or religious reasons”, they do not wish to participate in procedures such as abortion, sterilization”, or euthanasia. According to Roger Severino, Head of the U.S. Department of Health responsible for enforcing the new regulations, this will make it “so that people do not have to shed their religious beliefs to participate in health care”. This regulation on conscientious objection was a priority for the government and is a “key element of Trump’s political base”.
Current laws already guarantee the right to conscientious objection. Yet the US Department of Health reported that in 2018 alone, “more than 1,300 complaints alleging discrimination in a health care setting on account of religious beliefs or conscience issues” were received, a figure which is rising sharply. This Regulation is therefore complementary to existing legislation in order to ensure its effective application. “We are giving these laws life with this regulation”, said Roger Severino. “It makes sure Congress’ protections are not merely empty words on paper”.
The new regulations outline the requirements over more than 400 pages: “hospitals, universities, clinics, and other institutions that receive funding from federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to certify that they comply with some 25 federal laws protecting conscience and religious rights”. The ultimate penalty already established can be loss of federal funding for establishments which violate conscience or religious rights.
The rule takes effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
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