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Senator Lankford Applauds Action to Protect Conscience Rights of Healthcare Providers

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today applauds the issuance of a final rule by the Trump Administration to ensure that healthcare professionals are free from discrimination on the basis of religious belief or moral conviction and not forced to act contrary to their beliefs. The rule provides much-needed enforcement of laws passed by Congress to ensure the protection of conscience rights for those in the healthcare fields.

“The final rule issued by the Administration today will ensure that healthcare providers are able to serve people and still live out their religious or moral beliefs without fear of retribution or discrimination,” said Lankford. “This is a good step forward, but Congress still needs to take action on the Conscience Protection Act I introduced in January to give health care providers their day in court when their freedom to follow their moral convictions has been violated. Americans have very different views about abortion, but we should agree that no one should be forced anyone to participate in it. I am grateful for the Trump Administration’s work to help enforce conscience protection laws and preserve Americans’ constitutional right to religious liberty.”

In January, Lankford introduced the Conscience Protection Act to protect healthcare providers, including healthcare professionals, entities, and health insurance plans from government discrimination if they decline to participate in abortions. The Conscience Protection Act also provides a private right of action for victims of discrimination, to ensure that an individual’s rights are protected.

Lankford has been an active voice in the protection of life and religious freedom. Last year, he applauded the Trump Administration’s creation of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which enables the Agency to better process and enforce laws to protect freedoms of conscience and religion for individuals across the country. Additionally, on July 30, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a Religious Liberty Task Force to help the Department fully implement its religious liberty guidance by ensuring that all DOJ components uphold that guidance in the cases they bring and defend, the arguments they make in court, the policies and regulations they adopt, and how operations are conducted. 

Currently, if a healthcare provider, including insurance plans, refuses to provide abortions, the only recourse is to file a complaint with OCR. In 2014 California required that health plans must cover abortions, which forced religious employers to offer plans that violate their religious beliefs. In December 2014 under the Obama Administration, HHS opened an investigation, and in spite of then-current laws protecting conscience rights, in June 2016, HHS declared that California could force all its health plans to cover elective abortions. Then on January 26, 2018, HHS issued a proposed rule entitled “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights In Health Care,” that would clarify and enforce the more than 25 conscience protection laws that Congress has already enacted. Today, we applaud the finalization of this rule to protect healthcare providers from government discrimination.