Trump Adding A ‘Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom’ To HHS

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

The move allows medical providers to discriminate against patients based on their own religious beliefs.

The Trump administration officially announced a new division at Health and Human Services that will be dedicated to protecting "conscience and religious freedom" for healthcare workers across the country.

Acting Secretary of HHS Eric Hargan revealed the addition Thursday morning.

Social conservatives and religious liberty leaders have anticipated conscience and religious freedom protections to come out of HHS, and the work of the new division, which will fall under the purview of the Office of Civil Rights, will likely pave the way for health care workers to refuse specific types of care, like birth control or abortion, based on their religious or conscience objections.

Those opposing the move are concerned it further jeopardizes the rights of the LGBT community and will be detrimental to women's health care.

But the move comes as no surprise, given Trump's history on such matters throughout the campaign and his first year in office. And earlier this week, the president proclaimed January 16 "Religious Freedom Day", saying,

Unfortunately, not all have recognized the importance of religious freedom, whether by threatening tax consequences for particular forms of religious speech, or forcing people to comply with laws that violate their core religious beliefs without sufficient justification. These incursions, little by little, can destroy the fundamental freedom underlying our democracy.

But the Trump administration might have a fight on its hands as pro-choice groups have already decried the move, and the American Civil Liberties Union indicated a court battle could be in the future:

"Denying patients health care is not liberty. Choosing your patients based on their gender or gender expression is not freedom. Should the administration choose to move forward to implement a discriminatory policy, we will see them in court," [Louise Melling, ACLU deputy legal director] said.

"This announcement marks the Trump administration's latest step toward turning the Department of Health and Human Services into a place where backwards ideology rules, and science, ethics, and concern for the well-being of all Americans are non-existent," the [NARAL Pro-Choice America] statement read.