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USCCB General Counsel, Partners Urge HHS to Protect Conscience Rights and Religious Freedom in Health Care Nondiscrimination Rules

November 10, 2015

 WASHINGTON—Proposed regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should be revised to make clear that the regulations do not, in violation of federal law, require providing or referring for abortion or compel religious institutions to violate their fundamental convictions on human sexuality, said comments submitted to HHS on November 6. The comments were filed by the General Counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and nine partners.

"We agree that the prevention of sex discrimination in health programs and activities is a laudable statutory goal. Everyone should have access to health care and health coverage," said the comments. However, they note, the final regulations need to make clear that they do not demand involvement in abortion, force religious institutions to cover objectionable services, or employ definitions of sex discrimination and other terms that exceed federal law. The comments called for an exemption that would, at minimum, "state that the prohibition on sex discrimination shall not apply to a religious organization if such application would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization."

Anthony Picarello and Michael Moses, USCCB general counsel and associate general counsel, respectively, signed the comments, along with representatives of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Christian Medical Association, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, Christian Legal Society, World Vision (US), Liberty Institute and Family Research Council.
Keywords: HHS, Affordable Care Act, USCCB, General Counsel, religious freedom, abortion, nondiscrimination rules

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