Why Trump is targeting health workers’ religious objections

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey

The Trump administration announced Thursday a new division responsible for handling complaints from health-care workers who do not want to perform a medical procedure like an abortion or assisted death because it violates their religious or moral beliefs, a move that seemed to renew past culture war battles over “conscience protections.”

The new office, called the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, is seen by many as a win for conservative religious groups that complained President Barack Obama’s administration did not prioritize religious freedom concerns. Critics, however, worry that the language is broad and could lead to discrimination.

Health and Human Services did not introduce any rules, but the new office will focus on reviewing complaints from medical professionals under existing laws.

The new enforcement initiative represents the administration’s latest effort to elevate religious liberty claims when such personal beliefs come into conflict with priorities like access to medical care. Conservative groups, particularly those opposed to abortion, welcomed the move, while critics warned it could lead to discrimination on the basis of sex as well as gender identity and sexual orientation.

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