HHS Office of Civil Rights Director Roger Severino: "Protecting conscience and religious freedom not only fosters greater diversity in healthcare, it's the law."
Health care providers can now refuse services to patients who they believe violate their religious beliefs
The "Conscience Rule" was finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Thursday.
"The final rule fulfills President Trump's promise to promote and protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious liberty, a promise he made when he signed an executive order in May 2017 protecting religious liberty," HHS said in a statement.
Healthcare organization professionals who have "articulable connection" to procedures such as birth control, abortion or even sterilization can decline care.
Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union explains what the term "articulable connection" means.
"If I am the person who checks you into the hospital, that's an articulable connection. If I'm the person who would take your blood pressure, that would be an articulable connection," she said.
In other words, a healthcare provider is protected if they refuse services as long as they cite a religious objection or it offends their conscience.
President Trump signed an executive order last year to "defend freedom of religion and speech in America."
Detractors of the Conscience Rule say it's extremely limiting to female patients who are seeking abortions and can't get them because it is against the physician's religious beliefs. Further, it is unclear as to how the new rule will affect the LGBT community.
HHS Office of Civil Rights Director Roger Severino said in a statement, "This rule ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won't be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life," he said. "Protecting conscience and religious freedom not only fosters greater diversity in healthcare, it's the law."
On their website, the OCR's mission statement has changed since last week, it focuses on their vision which now states, "OCR enforces civil rights laws and conscience and religious freedom laws, and protects the privacy, security, and availability of individuals’ health information."
Equality California's Executive Director Rick Zbur said in an email statement that in the past two years the Trump administration has, "relentlessly attacked LGBTQ people — including transgender servicemembers, children and workers, and Thursday's attack is one of their most heartless and dangerous yet. President Trump just stood in front of the White House and told millions of LGBTQ Americans that they should be denied lifesaving healthcare simply because of who they are or whom they love. That is immoral; it is heartless; it is un-American. Someone else's personal beliefs should never be used as a license to discriminate. Period."