In January, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights. This proposed division was heralded by the Trump administration as a way to further protect the religious freedom of healthcare providers.

In realty, this rule change is a way to further discriminate against vulnerable populations who already face barriers to effective healthcare. The Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom would strengthen protections for healthcare providers who refuse to provide services that contradict their moral or religious beliefs, such as providing abortions or treating transgender people. LGBT advocates believe that this rule change would provide supports for physicians to provide substandard care to LGBT patients, or to refuse to treat them at all. The law would particularly support healthcare providers who refuse to treat transgender patients based on the provider’s moral objections.

A public comment period is now underway, and your voice needs to be heard.

Given that this is a proposed regulatory rule change, HHS is required to hold a public comment period to receive feedback from stakeholders and community members. The public comment period is open through March 27, 2018.

There are two ways to submit comments:

You may submit electronic comments at http://www.regulations.gov. In the text box under “Search for Rules, Comments, Adjudications or Supporting Documents,” search for HHS-OCR-2018-0002. Follow the directions on that page for submitting electronic comments.

You can mail a hard copy of your comments to:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights
Attention: Conscience NPRM, RIN 0945-ZA03
Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Room 509F
200 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20201

All comments received will be posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided.

More information on the proposed Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom is available here:
npr: Trump Admin Will Protect Health Workers Who Refuse Services On Religious Grounds
NBC News: New ‘religious freedom’ division sows fears of LGBTQ discrimination
New York Times: Trump Gives Health Workers New Religious Liberty Protections