Protect The 1st Asks HHS to Estimate How Many Doctors Will Leave Profession as a Result of Watered-Down Protections of Religious Rights
How Many of the Underserved Will Lose Their Healthcare?
Protect The 1st on Monday filed a comment with HHS detailing many of the ways in which the proposed recension of a 2019 rule to protect the religious conscience rights of physicians, nurses, and other health-care providers will hurt access to care among low-income and underserved Americans.
In 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported that a poll showed that more than 80 percent of healthcare providers who are religious would likely limit their scope of practice if they were required to participate in practices and procedures – such as abortion or sex reassignment surgery – to which they have a moral, ethical, or religious objection.
“If the existing rule is rescinded, many of these physicians will be forced to choose between obeying their conscience or violating their most cherished beliefs,” said Gene Schaerr, general counsel of Protect The 1st. “There is no lack of health-care providers who are willing to provide these procedures. Trying to force the minority of doctors and other providers to violate their conscience is a pointless exercise in religious discrimination and enforced ideological conformity.”
Protect The 1st asks HHS:
Please explain why, in the Department’s view, religious freedoms do not warrant protective regulatory provisions similar to those protecting other civil rights.
Please estimate how many doctors will likely leave the medical profession if they are required to perform medical procedures to which they are religiously opposed.
Please estimate the effect on underserved communities if religious hospitals and other entities choose to shut down rather than perform procedures to which they are religiously opposed.
Please estimate the rate at which patients will be unable to obtain what the Department considers healthcare if the 2019 final rule is largely rescinded.
The Protect The 1st comment also noted that the HHS proposal to move from reviews of systemic offenders to a “case-by-case” basis will shift the burden of litigation to injured parties. The department’s removal of all compliance requirements will almost certainly encourage the recent rash of local laws that discriminate on the basis of religion.
The Protect The 1st filing also said that the “proposed new rule is so deficient as to appear half-hearted in its attempt to protect religious freedoms.” In seeking to purportedly protect religious liberty and expand healthcare, the department’s new rule “cuts its own feet out from under it.”
Protect The 1st will work to communicate the dire nature of this rule change – and its impact on those who can least afford a restriction of access to health care – to the Biden Administration and to Congress.