USCCB general counsel offers qualified support for proposed HHS conscience rule
March 02, 2023
The Office of the General Counsel of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has offered qualified support to the Department of Health and Human Services’ proposed conscience protection rules.
The rules were initially met with skepticism by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty.
In May 2019, the Trump administration issued new conscience-protection rules that were applauded by the bishops’ conference. However, the Trump administration delayed implementing the rules out of concern for litigation, and in November 2019, a federal judge blocked the policy.
The blocking of the policy, in the judgment of the USCCB’s Office of General Counsel, left health care workers with conscientious objections in a relatively precarious situation—a situation that the Biden administration’s proposed regulations would improve.
“We support the proposed rule as an improvement over the current status quo in which the 2019 Rule is vacated,” the Office of General Counsel stated at the conclusion of nine pages of comments. “Yet we also urge the Department to strengthen the proposed rule in ways available to it, as discussed above.”
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