Conscience Rights

U.S. Senators and Representatives charge that “this administration would rather allow consciences to be violated at the behest of the abortion lobby rather than enforce the law and protect religious liberty”

By Dave Andrusko

Earlier today we posted a release from pro-life Senators Mario Rubio (R-Fl.) James Lankford (R-OK), and Tom Cotton (R-AR), along with U.S. Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) and a group of 80 bicameral legislators regarding a letter they had sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra. They were “demanding answers on why the Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped a lawsuit against the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC). The center, which has received federal funds from HHS since 1998, forced a nurse to help perform an abortion against the nurse’s registered conscience objections and in clear violation of long-standing federal law.”

We’ve previously written about this egregiously bad decision—even by the standards of the misbegotten Biden-Harris administration—which was nothing more (or less)than a sell out to the Abortion Lobby. As the letter pointedly explained, “We write to express our concerns with your coordinated decision to seek a voluntary dismissal in the lawsuit against the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) for knowingly, willfully, and repeatedly violating federal conscience-protection laws.”

These are pretty harsh charges, but as the accompanying letter detailed at length, it was, if anything, understating how badly the DOJ had acted. What follows is an examination of just five  of the multiple failures enumerated in the letter.

#1. “On August 28, 2019, the Office for Civil Rights at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS OCR) issued a notice of violation against UVMMC after it violated federal law by forcing a nurse to assist in an elective abortion, despite her well-known objections to abortion. UVMMC’s actions violated the Church Amendments, passed unanimously by Congress, which have been a component of federal conscience protections since 1973 and prohibit HHS grant recipients from discriminating against healthcare personnel who ‘refused to perform or assist in the performance of…[an] abortion on the grounds that his performance or assistance in the performance of the procedure or abortion would be contrary to his religious beliefs or moral convictions.’”

The Church Amendment passed “unanimously.”  It’s  a core value, at least to anyone who respects freedom of conscience. And it was common knowledge the woman objected to abortion. 

#2. This nurse was not the only one whose values were tromped on by the hospital which could have readily worked around their moral and ethical objections. “HHS OCR found that the hospital scheduled approximately 10 nurses who had registered conscience objections to assist with approximately 20 abortion procedures. UVMMC easily could have accommodated objections without any disturbance to the services it provided, as it had for other non-religious and non-abortion-related objections, but instead continued to perpetuate a work environment that was hostile toward people of faith both in policy and practice.” [My boldface.]

#3. “HHS revoked its notice of violation, withdrew the referral, and requested that DOJ dismiss the lawsuit against UVMMC,” which DOJ did, “without any binding settlement or requirement that UVMMC remedy its unlawful policies or make restitution to, or even acknowledge, the nurse whose rights it violated.” UVMMC not only got off scot-free, they aren’t required to make any changes or even acknowledged  its behavior toward the nurse.

#4. “Further,”  the letter continues, “you withdrew this lawsuit knowing that there are no additional legal remedies for victims of discrimination in this case. Although Congress has enacted more than 25 federal conscience laws, courts have not found protections like the Church Amendments to provide for a private right of action for individuals who have been discriminated against. Instead of supporting proposed legislation like the Conscience Protection Act to allow victims of discrimination to have their day in court, by reportedly unraveling the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within HHS OCR and dropping this lawsuit, you have spent your time blocking any possible legal remedy for victims of discrimination and making it harder for any further discrimination claims to be filed, investigated, and remedied.”

So, squash any chance the nurse had, knowing courts are not allowing  a private of action in these cases. On top of that, the Attorney General and the head of HHS are busy “blocking any possible remedies” for people like this nurse. Finally

#5. We all know to whom the Biden-Harris administration is paying homage with this grotesque miscarriage of justice–the Abortion Lobby:

Your actions signal to employers all around the country that they don’t need to comply with the law because your agencies will not enforce it. They also signal that this administration would rather allow consciences to be violated at the behest of the abortion lobby rather enforce the law and protect religious liberty. We demand a full explanation of your agencies’ actions.

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