HHS Must Reject Rule Granting Religious License to Discriminate against Patients

For Immediate Release: March 27, 2018
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
press@centerforinquiry.org - (207) 358-9785

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must not sacrifice Americans’ health for the sake of a health care provider’s religious beliefs, said the Center for Inquiry (CFI),]]><![CDATA[an organization advancing reason and science. CFI urged HHS to withdraw a proposed rule expanding the ability of religiously affiliated health care providers to refuse service to patients, “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care.”

“If this directive goes into effect, anyone involved in health care, from a receptionist to a janitor to a surgeon, would be allowed to claim a religious right to walk away from a suffering patient,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel. “It elevates the beliefs of health care providers above the needs of patients, regardless of the impact on safety and society. Our health care system needs to put patients and their needs first.”

The proposed rule would require a broad swath of entities to allow individuals to refuse “any lawful health service or activity based on religious beliefs or moral convictions.” Existing religious refusal laws have already resulted in lowered standards of care for patients, especially for women seeking reproductive care and for members of the LGBTQ community. As more and more communities become exclusively served by religious hospitals, the stories of women suffering pregnancy complications and being denied access to miscarriage management and sterilization services grows too.

“Women and members of the LGBTQ community across the country are being denied urgently needed care because of someone else’s religious beliefs. Suffering patients are forced to travel between facilities in order to find one that will provide them with the care they need. Worse still, many patients are turned away from church-run hospitals without being told where they can receive the care they need,” noted Jason Lemieux, CFI’s Director of Government Affairs. “The HHS should be protecting patient access to health care. Instead, it’s granting religious businesses and employees a license to discriminate against virtually anyone who seeks treatment.”

CFI’s comments indicating the danger of the proposed rule to women and the LGBTQ community, and calling for its rejection, can be read here.

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at centerforinquiry.org.