Hayes Introduces Bill to Eliminate Refusal of Health Services for Individuals Based on Religious Beliefs

July 6, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05) introduced the Eliminating the HHS Discrimination Division Act to abolish the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division (CRFD) established by the Trump Administration in 2018 in the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The elimination of the Division will prevent religion from being used as a basis for discrimination against women and LGBTQ+ individuals.

The Division handles a minuscule amount of cases annually despite receiving significant funding. In Fiscal Year 2018, there were 784 CRFD complaints, of which only six percent were closed, and five percent did not require any formal investigation. During the same period, there was a nearly 50 percent increase in civil rights cases and a nearly 20 percent increase in health information privacy cases. Despite this, HHS requested a more than $1 million funding increase for CRFD – covering six new staffers – while making deep cuts to other Divisions in the Office of Civil Rights with significantly heavier caseloads.

“As a woman of faith, I still firmly believe that no one should be able to weaponize religion, and in this case, for the refusal of medical services. I am introducing the Eliminating the HHS Discrimination Division Act because the government should have no role in perpetuating discrimination. We must be consistent in our advocacy for protecting equality for all and eradicating discriminatory practices,” said Congresswoman Hayes. “We need to ensure that we protect the rights of all Americans to choice and access in their health care."

The Eliminating the HHS Discrimination Division Act has been endorsed by: NARAL, Human Rights Campaign, Center for American Progress, and Center for Reproductive Rights.

"Discrimination and hate have no place in our health care system, in our laws and policies, or in our society. As people of faith, we have an obligation to care for our health and to ensure all others can do the same through access to quality, comprehensive, and equitable health care. However, by sanctioning discriminatory activity through entities like the so-called “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division,” the government promotes inequality, obstructs patients’ decision-making and moral autonomy, and jeopardizes public health and lives. National Council of Jewish Women thanks Congresswoman Hayes for her leadership in introducing this bill and looks forward to working with her to safeguard access to health care and true religious freedom for all," said Sheila Katz, chief executive officer of the National Council of Jewish Women.

“It is important that the Department of Health and Human Services undo the harms of the prior administration’s deprioritization of civil rights enforcement and diversion of resources and staff to focus on a problem that the prior administration was unable to prove even exists. It is vital that we have strong enforcement of federal civil rights law to ensure access to health care for all,” said Katherine Gillespie, acting director of Federal Policy and Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“The functions of the federal government should always be devoted to advancing equality and civil rights for all people. The Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom at the Department of Health and Human Services is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to attack LGBTQ people, women, and other marginalized groups’ access to inclusive and affirming health care,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director at Human Rights Campaign. “Because we should be prioritizing a system free from discrimination for everyone, the Human Rights Campaign firmly supports Representative Jahana Hayes’ re-introduction of the Eliminating HHS Discrimination Act and urges Congress to pass this important legislation.”

The bill's text can be found here.

 

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Congresswoman Jahana Hayes sits on the Committees on Education & Labor and Agriculture and proudly represents Connecticut’s 5th District. She was a public school teacher in Connecticut for more than 15 years and was recognized in 2016 as the National Teacher of the Year. 

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