by Ginger Taylor
Yesterday, the federal register published the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Office of the Secretary, HHS, A Proposed Rule by the Health and Human Services Department called, "Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority." It is the full rules that they are proposing to guide the office that they announced last week, that offer protections for those people who must decline to participate in a health care process or procedure due to their conscience or religious beliefs.
Their press conference on the office last week: https://www.pscp.tv/w/1vOGwNMgjXMKB
This begins a 60 day period of public comment on the new measures.
While the previous announcement and discussions from HHS on this new office did not mention vaccines, the proposed rules mention them TEN TIMES. And while we were a bit disheartened that vaccine coercion for students was not mentioned, we now see that the office recognizes that vaccine coercion is occurring:
"Despite the longstanding nature of the Federal health care conscience and associated anti-discrimination laws that this rule proposes to enforce, discrimination and coercion continue to occur. Relevant situations where persons, entities, and health care entities with religious beliefs or moral convictions may be coerced or suffer discrimination include:
Being asked to perform, participate in, pay for, counsel or refer for abortion, sterilization, euthanasia, or other health services;
engaging in health professions training that pressures students, residents, fellows, etc., to perform, assist in the performance of, or counsel for abortion;
considering a career in obstetrics, family medicine, or elder care, when one has a religious or moral objection to abortion, sterilization, or euthanasia;
raising religious or moral objections to participating in certain services within the scope of one's employment; and,
being required to administer or receive certain vaccinations derived from aborted fetal tissues as a condition of work or receipt of educational services."
It encourages, and even supports, families abilities to find physicians who share their vaccine point of view:
"PATIENT BENEFITS FROM CONSCIENCE PROTECTIONS
In supporting a more diverse medical field, the proposed rule would create ancillary benefits for patients. The proposed rule would assist patients in seeking counselors and other health-care providers who share their deepest held convictions. Some patients will appreciate the ability to speak frankly about their own convictions concerning questions that touch upon life and death and treatment preferences with a doctor best suited to provide such treatment. A pro-life woman may seek a pro-life ob-gyn to advise her on decisions relating to her fertility and reproductive choices. A pro-vaccination parent may seek a pediatrician who shares his views. Open communication in the doctor-patient relationship will foster better over-all care for patients."
This is great news. We didn't know if vaccines and students would be covered. The door is now officially all the way open for our community.
We will, no doubt, all be digesting this and planning on the best way to approach this new avenue in the next few days and weeks. But right off the bat I have a recommendation for comments that I would love to see submitted, so that this rule making truly gives us all religious freedom and freedom to act on conscience.
One of my long standing complaints is that in funding vaccine programs for states that do not offer a religious exemption, California, West Virginia, and Mississippi, the federal government is supporting the violation of the First Amendment Rights of millions of Americans.
The document does address federal funding in this section, saying:
"Third, providers of pediatric vaccines funded by Federal medical assistance programs must comply with any State laws relating to any religious or other exemptions."
However, I don't believe that this goes far enough. States that do not offer an unrestricted, unreviewable, unrejectable religious vaccine exemption, should not be given federal vaccine funding. Period.
I encourage to begin drafting your wise and eloquent comments to submit to HHS, and I hope you will include in your comments the urging that this section be amended so that not only do providers have to comply with state laws on religious exemptions, but that states MUST offer a religious exemption in order to receive vaccine funding.
So today is the day to share this post in all your groups, and to organize your comment submission. We do not yet know how HHS and the Trump administration will respond, and government/has a long and upsetting history of being able to follow a line of reasoning right up until it reaches the vaccine issue and then goes bonkers, but they said, "Vaccine" ten times. So they know it is part of the package that is coming.
If you don't vaccinate on religion or conscience:
Were you denied schooling if you didn't vaccinate yourself and your child?
Were you denied entry to school events?
Were you denied a job or discriminated against at work? Had to wear a mask?
Were you tricked into a vaccine you never would have allowed to be administered if you knew it contained pork products, bovine products or aborted fetal cell line products?
And start submitting your comments on their new complaint department. We need to push them to set the rules that protect us.
What are your suggestions on the new rules for the new office?
There has been some confusion on what this means for us, so allow me to clarify further what this is and what it is not.
The federal government cannot change state law. This office does not suddenly allow religious vaccine exemptions for those in MS, WV and CA. It does not have that power. It is not a panacea for our exemption problems.
The feds can't force entities to respect the religious and conscience rights of entities that are coercing vaccination, but it can stop funding those entities.
What this does is sets up a complaint process for entities that receive federal funding, and are coercing vaccination and other morally objective behavior, or discriminating against those who are conscientious objectors. The feds, if they found cause, could remove that funding for such entities.
This also does not currently apply to educational institutions. Why not? Good question. It should. We need a explanation and justification from the federal government as to why they are funding state education programs that are violating 1st Amendment rights. They have admitted it is a problem, after all (see above.)
So for those who were under the impression that their kids were going to get to go back to school next week in California because of this, sorry that is not what this does. It does open up a venue for you to ask, "Why are you funding a state program that violates my civil rights?" And you are owed an answer on that question.
This is not an immediate end to the problem. But we have been staring at a brick wall, and a door has suddenly appeared. To get through that door and to the other end of the maze to true vaccine choice, informed consent, and an end to the 1986 National Childhood Injury Act is still a ways off, but suddenly... there is a door.
Sherri Tenpenny asked some good questions in the comments that I would like to answer:
"How will this apply for:
1. flu shots/ healthcare workers
2. college entrance requirements
3. medical school/chiropractic school/veterinarian school applicants?
4. What about the military!?!"
My answers are:
1. It might help.
2. It may not help.
3. Who knows.
4. No way it will help.
If you are a healthcare worker of a federally funded entity, then you have a complaint that they will hear. But this is a new office, we don't know what they will ACTUALLY do, and how strong their political will is. What government says and what it actually does in the face of opposition, is two different things. I want people to use this tool, but be realistic that at best HHS is going to war with itself if they process our complaints and actually take any action. HHS drives vaccine uptake and holds vaccine patents.
College requirements are set by states, and the statute does not seem to apply to educational institutions, so it may not help. But it should, and we need to push this office to begin to consider this problem that again... they have already admitted exists. (see above) Same with med school, etc.
The military? That is the worst. They own you, body and soul. Conscientious objection in the military is a whole different animal, and they have a process. Some have been able to do it, but very few.
But the good news is that a door has appeared. And we can begin the process, perhaps even a good faith process, of raising all the questions that need to be properly addressed, even if most of the individual cases we want fixed don't have a formal pathway to justice.
This is a beginning, not a fix. Cautious optimism is recommended. As is action.