Arkansas, Maryland, Oklahoma | August 12, 2021
Lankford, Cotton, Harris Lead Colleagues to Demand Justice for Conscience Rights of Health Care Workers
Arkansas, Maryland, Oklahoma | August 12, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Rep. Andy Harris, M.D. (R-MD) led a bicameral group of Senators and Congressmen in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra demanding answers on why the Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped a lawsuit against the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC), which has received federal funds from HHS since 1998, for forcing a nurse to assist with an abortion procedure against the nurse’s registered conscience objections and in clear violation of long-standing federal law.
Under the Trump Administration, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) conducted an extensive investigation and referred the violation to the DOJ, which then filed a lawsuit in federal court. But now under the Biden Administration and the leadership of Secretary Becerra, HHS withdrew its request, and the DOJ dropped the lawsuit without any settlement or restitution.
“Your handling of this case is a profound miscarriage of justice and a rejection of your commitment to enforce federal conscience laws for Americans of all religious beliefs and creeds—and especially for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who object to abortion,” wrote the Members in their letter. “Your actions signal to employers all around the country that they don’t need to comply with the law because your agencies will not enforce it. They also signal that this administration would rather allow consciences to be violated at the behest of the abortion lobby rather enforce the law and protect religious liberty. We demand a full explanation of your agencies’ actions.”
Lankford continues to lead the Senate in standing up for the conscience rights of all Americans. In 2018 Lankford supported the creation of the HHS Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the OCR. Lankford introduced his Conscience Protection Act to protect health care providers and health insurers from government discrimination if they decline to participate in medical procedures, like abortion, that violate their consciences. This bill would also give health care providers a private right of action so that victims of abortion discrimination, like the nurse at UVMMC, can have their day in court even when the Obama and now Biden Administrations abandon their obligation to enforce the law. Lankford opposed Becerra to serve as HHS secretary in part because of his hostility toward conscience protections, including trying to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide contraception.
During Becerra’s confirmation hearings, Lankford pressed him on how he plans to protect Americans’ conscience rights and ensure faith-based entities receive fair treatment. Lankford questioned Becerra on why the department is working to eliminate the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the HHS OCR.
Joining Lankford, Cotton, and Harris in sending the letter are Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Steve Daines (R-MT), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Rick Scott (R-FL), John Boozman (R-AR), Mike Lee (R-UT), John Kennedy (R-LA), Jim Risch (R-ID), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Braun (R-IN), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), John Thune (R-SD), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Also joining Lankford, Cotton, and Harris are Representatives Mike Rogers (R-AL), Barry Moore (R-AL), Robert B. Aderholt (R-AL), Paul Gosar, DDS (R-AZ), Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Doug LaMalfa (R-AZ), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), John Rutherford (R-FL), Kat Cammack (R-FL), W. Gregory Steube (R-FL), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Scott Franklin (R-FL), Earl “Buddy” Carter (R-GA), Jody Hice (R-GA), Andrew Clyde (R-GA), Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), Mike Bost (R-IL), Jim Banks (R-IN), Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-IN), Randy Feenstra (R-IA), Mariannette Miller-Meeks, MD (R-IA), Jake LaTurner (R-KS), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Jack Bergman (R-MI), Michael Guest (R-MS), Billy Long (R-MO), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Ted Budd (R-NC), Gregory Murphy, M.D. (R-NC), Richard Hudson (R-NC), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Robert E. Latta (R-OH), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Kevin Hern (R-OK), Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), William Timmons (R-SC), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Ralph Norman (R-SC), Joe Wilson (R-SC), David Kustoff (R-TN), Diana Harshbarger (R-TN), Lance Gooden (R-TX), Jodey C. Arrington (R-TX), Pat Fallon (R-TX), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Randy Weber (R-TX), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Michael Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), Ronny Jackson, MD (R-TX), Blake Moore (R-UT), Bob Good (R-VA), Ben Cline (R-VA), David McKinley (R-WV), Alex Mooney (R-WV), and Glenn Grothman (R-WI),
Additionally, the following groups support the letter: American Center for Law and Justice, Concerned Women for America LAC, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Family Policy Alliance, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Family Research Council, Americans United for Life, March for Life Action, Susan B. Anthony List, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Right to Life, American College of Pediatricians, Christian Medical & Dental Associations, Catholic Medical Association, Coptic Medical Association of North America, Alliance Defending Freedom, Religious Freedom Institute, and Heritage Action.
You can view the full text of the letter HERE and below.
Dear Attorney General Garland and Secretary Becerra,
We write to express our concerns with your coordinated decision to seek a voluntary dismissal in the lawsuit against the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) for knowingly, willfully, and repeatedly violating federal conscience-protection laws…. (Excerpts from U.S. James Lankford)