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Federal Judge strikes HHS rule protecting right of conscience for individuals and health care providers.

Last week U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer of Manhattan took dead aim at "Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority," an HHS rule that protects individuals and health care providers from discrimination on the basis of their exercise of conscience in HHS-funded programs.

In his 147-page decision, Judge Engelmayer, appointed by former President Barack Obama, said these protections "recognize and protect undeniably important rights," but the government's rulemaking "was sufficiently shot through with glaring legal defects."

"Engelmayer's decision covered a lawsuit by New York state and 22 other states and municipalities, as well as two lawsuits by Planned Parenthood and other healthcare providers," Reuters reported.

Judge Engelmayer said the conscience rule "was unconstitutionally coercive because it would let the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) withhold billions of dollars of funding from hospitals, clinics, universities and other healthcare providers that did not comply," according to Jonathan Stempel.

The rule had been scheduled to take effect on November 22.

As NRL News Today has reported on multiple occasions, the Trump administration has demonstrated its commitment to expanding religious liberty and protecting the right of conscience.

Here's how Health and Human Services outlined its objectives in issuing the rule and the background:
      The U.S. Department
   of Health and Human
   Services (HHS) Office
   for Civil Rights (OCR)
   announced today the
   issuance of the final
   conscience rule that
   protects individuals
   and health care entities
   from discrimination
   on the basis of their
   exercise of conscience
   in HHS-funded
   programs. Just as
   OCR enforces other
   civil rights, the rule
   implements full and
   robust enforcement
   of approximately 25
   provisions passed by
   Congress protecting
   conscience rights in

      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. In October
   2017, the Department
   of Justice issued
   guidance encouraging
   other Departments,
   including HHS, to
   implement and enforce
   all relevant religious
   freedom laws.

      As a result, in
   January 2018,
   following the launch
   of its new Conscience
   and Religious
   Freedom Division,
   HHS announced the
   proposed conscience
   rule. OCR received
   over 242,000 public
   comments, and
   analyzed and carefully
   considered all
   comments submitted
   from the public on the
   proposed conscience
   regulation before
   finalizing it.

"Finally, laws prohibiting government funded discrimination against conscience and religious freedom will be enforced like every other civil rights law," said OCR Director Roger Severino. "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."

When the final HHS rule was issued May 2, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said, "I'm grateful that HHS is taking meaningful action to protect the conscience rights of all Americans," adding, "Health care should be about saving life, not taking life. Health care providers should never be forced or coerced into participating in abortion. The Office for Civil Rights is now better empowered to protect individuals from having their moral convictions about the sanctity of human life violated."

Rep. Smith is a cosponsor of HR 2014, the "Conscience Protection Act of 2019," which passed the House of Representatives in previous Congresses. The bill would guarantee a private right of action for victims of abortion discrimination.
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Author:Andrusko, Dave
Publication:National Right to Life News
Date:Nov 1, 2019
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