Trump Admin Creates Office To Protect Anti-Abortion Medical Providers

Anti-abortion activists rally outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, March 2, 2016, following oral arguments in the case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which deals with access to abortion in Texas. ... Anti-abortion activists rally outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, March 2, 2016, following oral arguments in the case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which deals with access to abortion in Texas. The US Supreme Court on March 2 took up its most important abortion case in a generation, the outcome of which could impact the ability of millions of women to end an unwanted pregnancy -- as well as the White House race. With the court now split evenly between liberals and conservatives following the death of Antonin Scalia, all eyes are on Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wields a swing vote on the issue, one of the most divisive in the world of US politics. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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January 18, 2018 10:11 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Moving to solidify its credentials with social conservatives, the Trump administration is creating an office to protect the religious rights of medical providers, including those who oppose abortion.

The announcement Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Service drew immediate criticism from Democrats who said it could undermine the rights of women, gays and transgender people.

The new division will be part of the HHS Office of Civil Rights, which enforces federal anti-discrimination and privacy laws. The administration said it will focus on enforcing conscience and religious protections already part of federal law. No new efforts to expand such protections were announced.

“President Trump promised the American people that his administration would vigorously uphold the rights of conscience and religious freedom,” acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan said in a statement. “That promise is being kept today.”

Religious and social conservatives are a core constituency for the Trump administration. President Donald Trump will address via satellite Friday’s annual anti-abortion march in Washington.

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington was quick to criticize the administration’s decision to create the new office.

“This would be yet another attempt to let ideology dictate who is able to get the care they need,” Murray said in a statement. “Any approach that would deny or delay health care to someone and jeopardize their wellbeing for ideological reasons is unacceptable.”

Monday marks the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

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