Press Release

ERLC Commends HHS Announcement of Final Rule Protecting Conscience Freedom in Healthcare

May 3, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 3, 2019—The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention welcomed the news of a final conscience rule for healthcare entities and individuals from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights. The new regulation lends executive enforcement to longstanding federal laws that protect individuals and healthcare entities from discrimination on the basis of religious belief or conscience objections to certain healthcare practices such as abortion or assisted suicide. The ERLC submitted public comments in support of the interim rule when it was issued.

ERLC President, Russell Moore, responds to the announcement of the final rule.

“This final rule comes as a conclusion to multiple positive moves by the Department of Health and Human Services to safeguard conscience protection. I am thankful that HHS recognizes how imperiled conscience rights have been in recent years in this arena and is actively working and leading to turn the tide in the other direction. Healthcare professionals should be freed up to care for the bodies and minds of their patients, not tied up by having their own consciences bound.”

This HHS rule is the result of the administration’s effort to protect religious liberty in all aspects of federal law. Specifically, the rule will protect nurses like Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo who in 2009 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York was forced by her superiors to assist in the dismemberment abortion of a 22-week-old baby. When she objected, she was threatened with the loss of her job. Mount Sinai, a recipient of millions in federal funding for research, violated the Church Amendment, a related conscience protection, by coercing nurse Cenzon-DeCarlo to participate in the abortion.

The new rule places the federal government on the side of nurses like Cenzon-DeCarlo in such disputes, making clear that the choice to refrain from participating in a healthcare practice that violates one’s conscience is a choice protected by federal law.

The Final Conscience Rule is available to read here, as well as a factsheet from HHS available here.