In a “we told you so” move, Health & Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra is abandoning the conscience protections of a nurse, who, when she worked at the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) was forced to assist with an abortion. The nurse said she was told by the doctor “please don’t hate me.”
The elective abortion–which the nurse initially believed was a follow-up procedure to a miscarriage she was assisting with–took place in 2017. The nurse filed a complaint in 2018 with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at HHS.
UVMMC was found to be in violation of federal law known as the Church Amendments, which were unanimously passed by Congress in 1973.
However, in writing for National Review, Roger Severino, who was the director of OCR during the Trump administration, discussed how the Department of Justice dropped the lawsuit last Friday. This is despite how Severino said it “was the most open and shut conscience case in over a decade.”
When it comes to the assurances he made during his confirmation hearings–ultimately false–that Becerra would uphold the law, Severino had this to say:
It was a lie. All of it. And Congress must hold him accountable for it. I cannot understate how unusual it is for DOJ and HHS to drop a duly authorized lawsuit after it has been investigated and filed, while getting literally nothing in return. The government strenuously avoids doing such a thing because it calls into question the consistent expectations of the law, reeks of politics, and exposes the government to potential liability for attorney’s fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act. Without so much as a slap on the wrist, this was a clear favor to abortion special interests and a spit in the face of not only the victim in the case, but the many medical professionals who have suffered conscience violations through the years and will continue to suffer, but now with little hope of recourse from their government.
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In his reporting on the dismissal for Fox News, Sam Dorman included various statements from relevant parties:
An HHS spokesperson told Fox News on Tuesday: “After a detailed evaluation of the underlying legal theory used to issue a referral to the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services withdrew the original referral and requested DOJ dismiss the suit against the University of Vermont Medical Center, a request which was granted. In line with this, HHS removed the Notice of Violation issued against UVMCC last Friday. HHS continues to evaluate the underlying facts of the matter and notified all the parties about its actions last Friday.”
Former administration officials are describing the move as unprecedented and a dereliction of duty.
“Its a dereliction of duty that is an insult to the bipartisan consensus that says you cannot force people to assist in abortions,” said Roger Severino, the former head of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Severino had referred the case to the Justice Department after an apparent delay within the department.
Both Severino and John Daukas, who served as former acting assistant attorney general for civil rights under Trump, told Fox News the move was a stark departure from normal practice.
“It’s very hard to understand how anybody could support forcing someone to perform an abortion, who thinks that they’re killing an innocent life,” said Daukas.
“I think that’s just outrageous, and I can’t believe the Justice Department dropped the lawsuit. Setting the morality aside, the law is clear,” he said. He was referring to the Church amendment, which was passed after the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade.
Severino has had more to say since then, according to Dorman.
Update: Roger Severino (@RogerSeverino_) says HHS
“statement is misleading. Becerra and co. overruled the conclusion of career professionals in the office for general counsel and the office for civil rights who worked the case for years. This was pure political interference.” https://t.co/jyBU3OVz5R
— Sam Dorman (@DormanInDc) August 3, 2021
Becerra’s other forms of bullying against pro-lifers have been heavily documented.
As Severino summed it up in his piece for National Review:
For those unaware, Becerra may be the most notorious violator of conscience laws in recent years. He even lost a Supreme Court case with his name on it, NIFLA v. Becerra, after he tried to coerce pro-life pregnancy-resource centers into violating their consciences by forcing them to refer mothers in search of life-affirming alternatives to free abortion services. Becerra was twice found in violation of conscience-protection laws by HHS’s Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, but now he is in charge of the entire agency. The fox is running the hen house.
President Joe Biden and Sec. Becerra are both Catholics, and Church teaching is abundantly clear on its opposition to abortion. Biden has been hailed as a “devout Catholic” by the media, with Becerra serving as a co-chair for Catholics for Biden for the 2020 election.
LifeNews Note: Rebecca Downs writes for TownHall, where this column originally appeared.