Statement from David Boyd, Apicha Community Health Center Board Chair, and Therese R. Rodriguez, Apicha CHC CEO, regarding the formation of New “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” at HHS
Last week, AIDS United, NASTAD, the National Coalition of STD Directors, NMAC and The AIDS Institute, jointly condemned the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announcement of the formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division (CRFD) in the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The CRFD will be tasked with “restor[ing] federal enforcement of our nation’s laws that protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom.”
The CRFD provides legal cover to providers who can potentially deny medical care for transgender individuals, women, or same-sex couples, including the full range of reproductive health services and any other procedure an employee or licensed health facility may object to, on so-called “moral” grounds. The new division will invite health professionals to misinterpret and ignore current legal and medical standards, putting the health and safety of patients at risk.
In its announcement of the office, HHS spokesperson OCR Director Roger Severino stated that “no one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions.”
No one should be denied medical care because their doctor or provider objects to their sexual orientation, gender identity, or reproductive autonomy. LGBTQ and other minority and marginalized communities, especially those living with HIV, already face discrimination and significant barriers to accessing critical prevention and care services.
At Apicha Community Health Center, we are dedicated to serving our patients -- all of them, regardless of sex, gender and sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity, or status. As such, our commitment to providing the best care will remain at the same high standards, inclusivity, and competence it always has been.
Throughout Apicha CHC’s history we have reached out to the edges of society. We have served as the voice for those unable to be at the table. Apicha believes in the notion that health care is not a privilege. It is a civil right and it is an immigrant right. It is a human right.