A federal court’s nullification Wednesday (Nov. 6) of a Trump administration rule protecting the conscience rights of health-care workers elicited disappointment from religious freedom and pro-life advocates.
The court in New York City vacated the entire regulation issued in May by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), saying the federal entity exceeded its congressionally granted authority. HHS acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in publishing the rule, federal judge Paul Engelmayer wrote.
The HHS regulation provided for the enforcement of 25 federal laws protecting conscience rights that were not enforced by the Obama administration. The rule is designed to protect the freedom of individuals and institutions in health care with objections to participating in procedures that violate their consciences or religious beliefs, such as abortion, assisted suicide, sterilization and gender-transition procedures.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), called the decision “a destructive ruling” he prays will be reversed.
“Honoring conscience rights is in everyone’s best interest,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments.
While Engelmayer described the rule as arbitrary and capricious, “nothing is more haphazard than giving the state unaccountable power to steamroll dissent,” he said. “Health-care professionals should be free to care for and protect their patients without binding their own consciences.”
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., called the ruling “absurd mush.”
“The point of the First Amendment — especially the free exercise of religion – is to protect the conscience rights of Americans,” Sasse said in a written statement. “In this country, government doesn’t get to tell you that your faith is fine on Sunday at church but not Monday at work.”
The Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA) pledged to continue fighting for the conscience rights of medical professionals.
“Religious healthcare professionals of all religions must be free to continue providing compassionate care without being forced to perform procedures, such as abortions, that would require them to violate their most deeply held beliefs,” according to a CMDA statement.
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Source: Baptist Press