Draft Regulations Place Medical Conscience & Religious Freedom at Risk

Jun 8, 2022 | Blog, Medical Conscience | 0 comments

Medical professionals and institutions have worked tirelessly, safe in the realization that their conscience and religious freedom rights are protected under regulations put in place by the prior presidential administration in 2020. These final regulations affirmed that sex discrimination is based on biological sex.

Why were these regulations needed?

Four years earlier, in 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) implemented regulations for Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which prohibits discrimination based on sex within health programs and activities that are federally funded. This covers the vast majority of healthcare in the United States because of the ACA and the many different grants and programs that the HHS and federal government fund. However, those regulations do not respect the conscience and religious freedom rights of medical professionals and medical institutions.

So, why is all of this relevant now?

The Biden Administration is drafting new regulations, currently under review at the White House, that will be published soon in the Federal Register and are anticipated to interpret sex very broadly to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and termination of pregnancy.

Rachel Morrison, Fellow for the Ethics and Public Policy Center HHS Accountability Project, a conservative think-tank based in Washington, D.C., spoke with the Religious Freedom and Health Care Campaign regarding the ramifications of these drafted regulations. Rachel was quick to inform us that “there are currently draft proposed regulations on both Title IX and Section 1557 of the ACA. As 1557 incorporates Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition, whatever regulations are in place for Title IX can have an impact on 1557.” Title IX regulations will define “what is sex?” and “what is sex discrimination?” Rachel adds that the Title IX draft regulations are using the Supreme Court Title VII employment discrimination case Bostock v. Clayton County to “broadly say that any prohibition under the law that says you cannot discriminate based on sex also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

What are the ramifications if finalized?

Rachel explained that if the Biden Administration regulations are finalized as anticipated, they would “require insurance to cover procedures related to gender transition, including for minors, and possibly abortions. It would also require health care professionals to provide these procedures regardless of their conscience or medical ethics.” Medical professionals and institutions would be faced with the decision to violate their conscience or face disciplinary measures for refusal. Additionally, taxpayers and religious organizations would be forced to fund these procedures which would, in turn, violate their consciences, ethics, and religious beliefs.

Can anything be done to stop these regulations?

Once the draft regulations are formally published, the public can comment on them by submitting written comments. This may seem like a daunting task when you think about the number of pages and specialized language used in regulations. However, Rachel added that “organizations such as the EPPC, Religious Freedom Institute, Christ Medicus Foundation, and The Heritage Foundation, provide summaries to the public of the top points and explain how organizations can respond to the proposal.” She also added, “this is a great opportunity for the public’s voice to be heard. It might seem distant from their daily lives, but these regulations could have a massive impact on their lives.”

Helpful Resources:

EPPC Explainer on Public Comments on Agency Rulemaking
How to File a Federal Conscience Complaint
Gender Identity Policy Under the Biden Administration


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