HHS said its move establishes "conscience protections", whereby the department's Office for Civil Rights would take the side of individuals who do not want to provide services, such as abortion, that they say conflict with their morals or religion.
Protections in place under former President George W. Bush that covered workers who objected, on moral grounds, to performing abortions and certain other services, were rolled back by the Obama administration, a move highly criticized by President Trump.
The change comes in part out of Trump's executive order from May 2017 on better protecting religious freedoms, and it was announced as participants in the 45th annual March for Life pour into Washington for the largest anti-abortion rally in the United States on January 19.
The announcement was made at an event held at HHS headquarters.
"Enforcing these statutes", said Hargan, "will expand the already excellent work OCR does to protect civil rights". But according to NBC News, this reasoning is based on essentially nothing, since trans health care costs the DOD very little in comparison with the Department's total budget, and the health cost of cisgender people in the military.
"That promise is being kept today", said acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan, as he announced the new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division.
"Denying patients health care is not liberty", Melling said.
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.
"HHS has not always been the best keeper of this liberty", said OCR Director Roger Severino.
Workers who allege they experienced discrimination because they refused to participate in specific medical procedures - including abortion or assisted suicide - or say they were coerced into doing so, can file a complaint with the office.
Democrats strenuously objected, saying it will restrict health care access to women or transgender patients. Those initiatives have run into legal challenges.
The Trump administration's creation of an office to safeguard health care professionals' religious liberty has drawn praise from evangelicals and derision from advocates of so-called abortion and transgender rights. Planned Parenthood's Vice President of Public Policy Dana Singiser said that the activity of the division could "prevent women and transgender people from getting the care they need" by enabling medical professionals to refuse to perform requested procedures.
The ACLU warned on their Twitter account that should the department's new initiative proceed, "we will see them in court". DeCarlo told her story on Capitol Hill in November. The new HHS office is a positive step toward that end. "Religious freedom should not mean that our health care providers have a license to discriminate or impose their beliefs on others", Pallone said.
This is a perilous new policy, as it has the potential to impede access to care, insult the dignity of patients, and allow religious beliefs to override mainstream medical science. The number of people who identify as LGBT is also growing.
McCarthy was referencing the Little Sisters of the Poor's ongoing lawsuit against the Obamacare contraceptive mandate which they declined to comply with due to religious objections. "Ensuring that HHS funds do not support morally coercive or discriminatory practices or policies in violation of federal law should not be remotely controversial".