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AAFP Statement on the HHS Conscience & Religious Freedom Division

The Department of Health and Human Services has established the Conscience & Religious Freedom Division within the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The HHS press release stated the following: The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division has been established to restore federal enforcement of our nation’s laws that protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom. OCR is the law enforcement agency within HHS that enforces federal laws protecting civil rights and conscience in health and human services, and the security and privacy of people’s health information. The creation of the new division will provide HHS with the focus it needs to more vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom, the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights.

AAFP released a formal statement in response. Here is the operative portion of the statement:

We recognize and respect the rights of health care professionals to decline to participate in care that violates their personal code of ethics. However, our policies call for ensuring that all patients have access to health care, regardless of actual or perceived race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnic affiliation, health, age, disability, economic status, body habitus or national origin. Denying access to care to a patient on religious, ethical or moral grounds is in direct conflict with AAFP policy.