In May, the Trump administration issued a new rule that gives health care workers the power to refuse to provide services their religion disapproves of, such as abortion, sterilization or assisted suicide. A religious conviction isn’t even essential to trigger the rule; a matter of conscience is enough. The measure essentially revived a Bush rule that the Obama administration reversed.
It’s a bad rule, and an unethical rule, as Ethics Alarms has held before. If you can’t perform all the duties of a job, then don’t take the job. If an employee can get his or her employer to agree that he or she is exempt from certain duties, that’s freedom of contract. Fine. The Trump rule, however, like the Bush rule before it, breaches a basic principle of the workplace, and common sense as well. It also leads inevitably to messes like this one:
The federal government has accused the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, Vermont of violating federal law by forcing a nurse to participate in an abortion despite her objections. The hospital denies it.
The nurse, who is Catholic, filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights. It alleges, that she was misled by supervisors to believe she was assisting in a procedure scheduled after a miscarriage. “After [she] confirmed that she was, in fact, being assigned to an abortion, [her employer] refused her request that other equally qualified and available personnel take her place,” the complaint reads. She then participated in the procedure and “has been haunted by nightmares ever since.”
Now the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services has filed a notice of violation against the hospital, the first since the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom was added to HHS in 2018. Continue reading