Trump announces new conscience rule for health workers

May 2, 2019

The Trump administration announced rules Thursday that allow health workers to refuse to participate in abortions, sterilizations or assisted suicides if they object on religious grounds.

Officials said the protection replaces an “inadequate” Obama-era rule by clarifying who is covered and how they must comply. Health facilities receiving federal money must verify compliance as a condition of funding.

“This rule ensures that health care 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,” said Roger Severino, director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights.

HHS unveiled the rule, which thrilled pro-life groups, as President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence gathered with faith leaders for the National Day of Prayer.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Trump cast himself as an arch defender of religious liberty in every facet of American life, from bolstering devout doctors to allowing faith-based adoption services operate without interference.

He said prisoners and people in drug treatment have greater access to faith-based help than ever, while stores are free to proclaim, “Merry Christmas,” in lieu of generic holiday wishes.

“They’re using the word ‘God’ again,” Mr. Trump said. “In God we trust so important.”

The president said prayer’s benefits extend to him and Mr. Pence, personally, as they cope with “witch hunts” related to long-running probes into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

“We just do it,” he said. “And we think about God.”

Mr. Trump called on the faithful to defend their beliefs after a “pretty tough” few months, citing attacks on Christians in Sri Lanka, Muslims in New Zealand and Jewish Americans in Pittsburgh and California.

The ceremony featured riveting remarks from Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was shot in both hands in the attack last weekend at the Chabad of Poway synagogue near San Diego. He said he remembered the words of his teachers as he defended his congregation.

“You need to stand tall, you need to stand fast,” he said.

The National Day of Prayer is held on the first Thursday of May each year.

Created under President Harry S. Truman in 1952, the event invites people of all faiths to pray for the nation and is traditionally observed with a presidential proclamation.

Mr. Trump has marked the occasion by rolling out new policy. He created a White House office on faith initiatives last year, and this year followed up with conscience protections in health care, thrilling groups such as the March for Life.

“The new Health and Human Services rule will ensure that the rights of medical professionals, guaranteed by the United States Constitution as well as Federal law, will be respected,” said group President Jeanne Mancini. “No one should be forced to participate in life-ending procedures like abortion or similar activities that go against their religious beliefs or moral convictions.”