On Friday, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Women’s Law Center filed a Freedom of Information Act request as part of an investigation into the Department of Health and Human Services’s new “Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom,” a Trump-era creation devoted to promoting discrimination in health care.
The FOIA request marks the first step in launching a legal challenge to the new division, established on Jan. 18.
The top civil rights official at the Department of Health and Human Services is creating the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom to protect doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to take part in procedures like abortion or treat certain people because of moral or religious objections.
"Never forget that religious freedom is a primary freedom, that it is a civil right that deserves enforcement and respect," said Roger Severino, the director of HHS's Office for Civil Rights, at a ceremony to announce the new division.
The establishment of the division reverses an Obama-era policy that barred health care workers from refusing to treat transgender individuals or people who have had or are seeking abortions.
Just a day after the administration announced the division’s creation, HHS sought to expand its powers. Should the expansion be implemented, the division would be able to not just protect but promote discrimination, according to the CRR and NWLC.