HHS Announces New Policies to Protect Life and Conscience

Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today [Jan. 19], the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced two major actions to protect life and the conscience rights of Americans.

First, the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced a new proposed policy to enforce 25 existing statutory conscience protections for Americans involved in HHS-funded programs, that will protect the religious and conscience rights of doctors, nurses, and other professionals from being coerced into participating in medical procedures such as abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide that violate their consciences.

Second, HHS’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued new guidance to state Medicaid directors restoring state flexibility to decide program standards. The letter issued today rescinds 2016 guidance that specifically restricted states’ ability to take certain actions against family-planning providers that offer abortion services. This policy will allow states to stop Medicaid funding from going to abortion providers, if they have broken the law. There were 15 states that moved to defund Planned Parenthood. Those efforts were stopped when the previous administration sent a letter to all 50 states claiming that defunding Planned Parenthood would put them at odds with federal law. This new policy will allow these states, and any others, to defund abortion providers.

HHS announced yesterday the establishment of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the OCR to specialize in enforcement of and compliance with laws that protect conscience and free exercise of religion, and that prohibit coercion and discrimination. Since President Trump took office, OCR has stepped up enforcement of these conscience statutes, many of which saw little to no enforcement activity under the previous administration.

“I am excited about the new commitment of the Department of Health and Human Services to protect the rights of conscience and religious freedom,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “HHS is open for business and ready to protect religious freedom. No one should be forced to violate their conscience and sincerely-held religious beliefs. Today is an historic day for America and marks a big step in the march for life. Today is one year since President Trump took office and he has already become the most pro-life president in history. Today at the White House, surrounded by many young people, President Trump addressed the hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Washington, D.C. and the millions around the country to remember the tens of millions of victims of abortion as he stated that the ‘March for Life is a movement born out of love.’ Today we have hope that America can turn the page on abortion and protect the rights of conscience and religious freedom for all Americans,” said Staver.

Used with the permission of Liberty Counsel.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.