HHS ISSUES FINAL ‘CONSCIENCE’ RULE

On December 19, 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a final rule in the Federal Register that the agency said is intended to increase awareness of and compliance with federal “conscience” laws prohibiting employment discrimination against health care workers who have religious or moral objections to participating in certain health care services such as abortion. The rule is effective January 20, 2009. Reed Russell, EEOC legal counsel and two Democratic EEOC commissioners (Stuart Ishimaru and Christine Griffin) submitted comments during the rulemaking stage in opposition to the proposed rule. On November 20, 2008, a bill entitled “Protecting Patients and Health Care Act” (S.20) was introduced in the Senate to prohibit HHS from finalizing, enforcing, or implementing this rule.

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