Health and Human Services and the Religious Liberty War

The Atlantic
by Emma Green
May 7, 2019


For almost a decade, a battle over religious liberty, abortion, and LGBTQ medical care has been playing out dramatically in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Religious conservatives, who are predominantly Christian and have enormous sway in the Trump administration, have fought to protect their beliefs and practices, which often compel them not to participate in abortion and life-ending medical procedures. At the same time, progressive advocates have pushed for expanded rights for LGBTQ people and women who want access to abortions and birth control.

Last week, President Donald Trump announced a new HHS rule designed to protect the religious liberty of health-care providers. It was the latest signal that this administration is prioritizing issues that matter to religious conservatives, often at the cost of expanded rights for other groups. Watching from the sidelines, progressives fear that these decisions could have damaging long-term consequences, which could be life-changing for people seeking medical care.

When it comes to federal policy, religious liberty is often framed in direct opposition to LGBTQ rights or abortion services—one is protected at the cost of the other. With this new HHS rule, the Trump administration is clearly staking its position as a defender of religious liberty, and the priorities of religious conservatives.

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