News headlines last week were dominated by the government shutdown and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program deals. These big ticket items, as important as they are, have taken away focus from another just as infuriating issue in President Donald Trump’s administration.
According to Reuters, the U.S. government wants to increase the protection of the “conscious and religious freedom” of health care workers whose beliefs may inhibit them from carrying out specific procedures.
In a press release Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced its Office of Civil Rights (OCR) proposed a new rule to enforce 25 existing statutory conscience protections for Americans involved in HHS-funded programs, which protects people from being coerced into participating in activities that violate their conscience. This often includes performing procedures such as abortion, sterilization or assisted suicide.
This announcement followed one released the day before, stating the OCR will add a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within its office. The purpose of the division is to implement proposed regulation of freedoms within HHS-funded programs and to enforce statutes that protect individuals and organizations from being compelled to participate in procedures when it would violate their religious beliefs or moral convictions.
This new division of the OCR will reverse former President Barack Obama-era health care rules that disallowed health care workers from denying treatment.
While we certainly support religious freedom and encourage workers to stand up against things they feel are morally wrong, we can’t say we agree with the revamp of these rules or the installment of this new office.
When a person chooses a profession, they do so with a full understanding of their duties. They do so knowing they may not always agree with the needs of their clients and not everyone shares their beliefs. This is true of every profession — not just health care. We believe if a health care provider is not willing to perform all of their responsibilities, they should choose another field or another health specialty.
When health care providers refuse care requested by a patient, they not only put their patient at a disadvantage, but they put them in potential danger. The moral justifications of this are something we cannot fathom.
Moreover, the new rules have the potential to lead to a rise in discrimination based on things like gender, race or sexual orientation. For example, according to the Washington Post, in 2015 a Michigan pediatrician refused to treat a baby solely based on the fact its parents were lesbians. In areas where health care providers are scarce, the results of these new rules could prove detrimental. Should the local pediatrician, OB-GYN or primary care doctor deem someone morally wrong to treat, clients could be forced to travel far distances for health care or find themselves with none at all.
We believe if you are a health care worker and you deem it morally acceptable to perform controversial procedures, get trained in every possible one.
We are living in an age where it could soon be rare for an American to find a doctor willing to perform procedures they need or who are even willing to see them at all. These people who could soon find it challenging to receive necessary health care are in need.