Religion in Society

HHS Should Revoke Bush-Era "Conscience" Rules

| by AUSCS

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has called
on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to rescind a regulation
put in place by former President George W. Bush dealing with religious
objections to medical procedures, saying the rule could violate patients’
rights.

The sweeping regulation, implemented by Bush in December,
essentially gives health-care workers a right to refuse to take part in any
procedure that they say violates their religious beliefs.

“This regulation was a parting gift from President
Bush to the Religious Right, and it ought to be returned to sender,” said
the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “The last
thing this country needs is more Religious Right meddling in our health
care.”

President Barack Obama has proposed rescinding the Bush regulation,
and today is the deadline for public comment on the matter.

In a letter
to HHS Acting Secretary Charles E. Johnson, Americans United urges Obama to
proceed with the planned rescission of the rule, arguing that the regulation is
unnecessary because the nation’s federal civil rights laws already
protect employees from religious discrimination.

“Rescinding the law would pose no threat to the rights
of health-care workers, and instead, would serve to ensure that more
individuals have access to health care,” wrote Margaret F. Garrett, AU
assistant legislative director. “The goals of the current rule could more
effectively be met simply through education and outreach.”

AU also asserts that the rule is too sweeping in its
approach and that it fosters ambiguity.

Continuing to enforce the regulation, AU asserts,
“will have a chilling effect on health-care facilities, reducing –
rather than expanding – health-care services for patients.”