HHS ‘Religious Freedom’ Division Robs Americans of their Right to Safe and Secular Health Care

For Immediate Release: January 18, 2018
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
press@centerforinquiry.org - (207) 358-9785

The creation of a “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) places religious dogma over evidence-based health care and basic compassion, said reason and science advocacy organization the Center for Inquiry (CFI), which declared that the Trump administration is recklessly risking the health and lives of Americans in order to score political points with the religious right.

“The Department of Health and Human Services should have as its sole priority the health and well-being of every American, pursuing policies based in facts and evidence, regardless of any person’s religious beliefs or lack thereof,” said Jason Lemieux, CFI’s Director of Government Affairs. “This grossly misnamed division represents the opposite. It is an abdication of the department’s vital responsibility to the health of all Americans, placing the dogmatic beliefs of a few above the health and lives of the people they serve.”

The HHS’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) was created to enforce anti-discrimination laws in health care and to educate medical professionals about their rights and responsibilities. This new division with the OCR will be tasked with asserting a religious privilege for health care providers whose beliefs conflict with certain areas of care or particular procedures, including but not limited to abortions and sex-reassignment surgery. The Center for Inquiry maintains that the Trump administration created this division to attack, rather than defend, civil rights.

“If the Trump administration is so concerned about civil rights in health care, they should be protecting a woman whose pregnancy threatens her right to life by making sure she can’t be turned away by church-owned hospitals,” said CFI Vice President for Legal Affairs Nick Little.

“The administration should be protecting individuals’ right to decide when and whether to start a family by upholding abortion rights and ensuring that those seeking birth control can’t be refused service by religious pharmacists,” Little continued. “It should ensure that all employers follow the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to provide no co-pay contraceptive services. It should uphold the right of every person to fully be who they are, and not allow knee-jerk conservatism to become a justification for doctors to push transgender Americans aside.”

“Religious beliefs do not need the protection of the HHS and its Civil Rights Division,” said Little. “It is Americans’ fundamental civil right to safe and secular health care that needs the protection of the HHS.”

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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.