By Dan Diamond
A small cadre of politically prominent religious activists inside the Department of Health and Human Services have spent months quietly planning how to weaken federal protections for abortion and transgender care — a strategy that’s taking shape in a series of policy moves that took even their own staff by surprise.
Those officials include Roger Severino, an anti-abortion Catholic lawyer who now runs the Office of Civil Rights and last week laid out new protections allowing health care workers with religious or moral objections to abortion and other procedures to opt out. Shannon Royce, the agency’s key liaison with religious and grass-roots organizations, has also emerged as a pivotal player.
“To have leaders like Roger, like Shannon, it’s so important,” said Deanna Wallace of Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group that was frequently at odds with the Obama administration. “It’s extremely encouraging to have HHS on our side this time.”
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