A division of the Office for Civil Rights at the US Department of Health and Human Services would be eliminated under a bill passed in the House. 5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes says the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division was formed in 2018.
Hayes says the bill saves taxpayer money by eliminating the Division, which was created to enforce a refusal of care rule that she says would jeopardize access to medical services, including abortion and gender affirmation surgery among others.
Hayes has been vocal about her personal faith, but says nobody should be forced to live their life according to the religious values of another.
Despite receiving significant funding, Hayes says the Division handles a minuscule amount of cases annually. In Fiscal Year 2018, there were 784 complaints, of which only 6% were closed, and 5% didn’t require any formal investigation at all. During the same period, there was a nearly 50% increase in civil rights cases and a nearly 20% increase in health information privacy cases.
The Department of Health and Human Services requested a more than $1 million funding increase for the Division – covering six new staffers – while making deep cuts to other Divisions in the Office of Civil Rights with significantly heavier caseloads. The bill does not end religious exemptions, instead it eliminates what Hayes called a wasteful government division.