Conscience Protections

Conscience Protections

The federal health care provider conscience protection statutes protect health care provider conscience rights. They prohibit recipients of certain federal funds from discriminating against health care providers who refuse to participate in certain health care services on religious or moral grounds.


General Healthcare Rights of Conscience

Wheaton College v. Sebelius – The Center filed an amicus brief in support of Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College in their joint challenge to the “HHS Mandate.” The Mandate is a federal regulation that requires employers to provide insurance coverage for Plan B and ella, which many regard as abortion-inducing drugs. While the Mandate exempts some “religious employers,” the exemption is so narrow that these religious colleges do not qualify as “religious employers.”

S.1467, also known as Amendment #1520 to S. 1813, Amendment #1520 is the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.” The amendment would amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the 2010 health reform law) to protect rights of conscience. The amendment provides that mandated health plans need not include coverage for items or services contrary to the religious beliefs of the issuer, purchaser, or beneficiary of the plan. The amendment also allows health plans to safeguard healthcare providers’ rights of conscience.

The Department of Health and Human Services explicitly broadened “preventive services” to include mandated coverage of contraceptives, including abortion inducing drugs on August 3, 2011. The President announced on February 10, 2012, that the Administration’s previous policy would be modified by issuance of some future regulations. CLS and 62 other religious organizations sent a letter to President Obama asking that the federal government re-think its inadequate exemption for religious employers in the new federal health insurance regulations. The definition failed to protect most faith-based ministries from having to provide insurance that covers abortion-inducing drugs.

HR 1179 – Amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (March 21, 2011) (bill to ensure that the 2010 health reform law will not force religious healthcare providers to provide abortions or other procedures in violation of conscience).

Letter from CLS to the House Judiciary Committee regarding health care workers’ rights of conscience.

“A Step Backward for Freedom of Conscience” (March 1, 2011 article by Professor Michael McConnell on the Obama Administration’s partial rescission of the Bush Administration’s regulations regarding health care workers’ rights of conscience.)

Department of Health & Human Services’ Regulations adopted by the Bush Administration in 2009 to protect conscience rights of healthcare professionals; the Obama Administration rescinded and replaced them in 2011.

Comments of CLS and Fellowship of Christian Physician Assistants on the Department of Health & Human Services’ Provider Conscience Regulations, 73 Fed. Reg. 50274-50285 (September 25, 2008)

Proposed Answer of Christian Medical Association in Connecticut v. U.S. (U.S. District Court of Conn.)

CLS amici curiae brief in Baxter, et al., v. Montana (Mont. Supreme Court) (2009)

CLS amici curiae brief in Stormans v. Selecky (9th Circuit) (2008)

CLS amici curiae brief in Stormans v.  Wiesman (United States Supreme Court cert stage) (2016)


HHS Mandate

An Important Issue of religious freedom. On March 25, 2014, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in two cases, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, challenging the HHS Mandate. Read more here.



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