New Trump Religious-Refusal Policy Makes a Mockery of Religious Freedom, Endangers Vulnerable People

by Dan Quinn

The Trump administration today announced a new policy favoring health care workers who refuse to do their jobs because they have religious or moral objections to certain services or to the individuals receiving them. We just sent out the following press release:

TFN PRESIDENT: NEW TRUMP RELIGIOUS-REFUSAL POLICY MAKES A MOCKERY OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, ENDANGERS VULNERABLE PEOPLE

New Policy Makes Health Care Dependent on Personal Beliefs of Providers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 18, 2018

The president of the Texas Freedom Network today is denouncing a just-announced Trump administration policy that favors health care workers who refuse to do their jobs if they have religious or moral objections to certain services or to the individuals receiving them.

“This policy makes a mockery of religious freedom by turning faith into a weapon to discriminate and harm people simply because of who they are or the health care services they need,” TFN President Kathy Miller said. “It’s outrageous and dangerous to make care for an LGBT person, a woman or anyone else dependent on the personal beliefs of a doctor or emergency care worker rather than on medical necessity.”

The policy establishes a religious freedom office in the Department of Health and Human Services. The office is tasked with shielding health care workers who choose not to participate in care because of their personal beliefs. This policy could have far-reaching consequences, such as:

  • The National Women’s Law Center has highlighted real-life cases in which health care providers have, because of moral objections, refused to provide necessary care to LGBT people. Fear of discrimination has also led LGBT people to avoid seeking the care they need.
  • Victims of sexual assault could find it hard or even impossible, depending on where they live, to find a pharmacist willing to dispense emergency contraception (or any birth control at all).
  • A hospital could refuse to provide a procedure (or even inform patients about the option), such as an abortion, hysterectomy or even a blood transfusion, even if a patient’s health or life would be endangered without it.
  • Health care workers could conceivably use this rule to refuse to treat individuals who belong to a religion other than their own.

Texas lawmakers in recent years have tried to pass legislation also allowing the use of religion to discriminate. In 2017, for example, the Legislature passed a law allowing faith-based child welfare agencies to refuse to work with LGBT children and families to whom they had religious objections. But state lawmakers have failed to pass other bills that grant a special right of religious refusal to health care workers.

The Texas Senate State Affairs Committee has scheduled an interim hearing on Feb. 21 to discuss, among other topics, “recommendations for any legislation needed to ensure that citizens’ religious freedoms are not eroded by local ordinances or state or federal law.”

“So many of these policies that masquerade as efforts to protect religious freedom are really about stigmatizing and protecting discrimination against vulnerable people,” Miller said. “This new policy is simply a ploy to please a political base that is stubbornly opposed to treating everyone equally and with the dignity we all deserve.”

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The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization that supports religious freedom and individual liberties.

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