Biden's HHS accused of trying 'to pull a fast one' by dropping conscience rights case

Xavier Becerra (Video screenshot)

The Health and Human Services Department and Department of Justice under Joe Biden are being called out for trying “to pull a fast one” by voluntarily dropping a conscience rights case against a Vermont hospital that forced a nurse to participate in an abortion even though she had opted out of those procedures, and there was no real reason for her to be ordered to do it.

The American Center for Law and Justice, which had been fighting on behalf of a Christian nurse, Rachel, in the years-long case, has posted online a challenge to the Biden administration decision for being contrary to law and precedent both.

The “court decisions” that were cited in the reversal were described as having “no precedential value whatsoever,” by the ACLJ, which said, “It takes a fair dose of chutzpah for [the Office of Civil Rights] to suggest that ‘the legal issues surrounding the standard applied in the [Notice of Violation] are serious enough to warrant a withdrawal of the NOV,’ where the government itself has (1) sought and obtained a stay of the appeals involving those very issues, and (2) voluntarily dismissed the only case ever brought by the government against an entity for violating the Church Amendments where those issues could have been resolved.”

The ACLJ explained that the federal agency, “having pulled the rug out from under itself, then comes to us and says, ‘Sorry, somebody pulled the rug out from user us, so we have to dismiss your case!’ We aren’t fooled by this thinly veiled sleight of hand, and we’re calling them out for it.”

The issue earlier was elevated to the level of the U.S. Senate, where senators accused Human Services chief Xavier Becerra of violating federal laws by dropping a Department of Justice lawsuit against a hospital that forced the Christian nurse to help with an abortion – even though she was supposed to be exempt from that duty.

The Daily Caller News Foundation obtained a copy of the letter and posted it online.

The letter pointed out the hospital, the University of Vermont Medical Center, faced claims it “knowingly, willfully, and repeatedly” violated federal conscience-protection laws.

The nurse cited in the lawsuit, and others, were protected by the Church Amendments, which were passed unanimously by Congress and have been part of federal protections since 1973, the letter said.

They prohibit HHS grant recipients from discriminating against healthcare personnel who “refused to perform or assist in … an abortion.”

The government “rightfully” sued the hospital in 2020 but then under President Biden’s leadership, the DOJ dismissed the lawsuit.

“You withdraw this lawsuit knowing that there are no additional legal remedies for victims of discrimination in this case,” the Republican senators wrote.

“Your handling of this case is a profound miscarriage of justice and a rejection of your commitment to enforce federal conscience laws for Americans of all religious beliefs and creeds – and especially for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who object to abortion. Your actions signal to employers all around the country that they don’t need to comply with the law because your agencies will not enforce it,” they wrote.

The ACLJ said the DOJ itself asked the court to dismiss the case against the Vermont school because the “underlying Notice of Violation” had been reversed by the radically pro-abortion Becerra.

That decision, however, was based on two federal court decisions that lacked any influence on precedent because they were at the federal judiciary’s lowest court level.

Further, “the plain language of the Church Amendment” does provide such a conscience right.

The ACLJ responded to HHS with a letter noting that the “precedents” cited are of no value. Secondly, it explained that even if those “precedents” had any value, the violation notice was based on two findings, that Vermont’s “Conflict-of-Care Policy violates the Church Amendments,” and that it “discriminated against health care personnel who have religious or moral objections to participating in abortions.”

The department’s decision to drop that issue hurts not only Rachel, but “other UVMMC medical personnel as well.”

Finally, the letter says despite the fact the OCR promised to “continue to evaluate” the complaint, nothing has been done.

“For OCR,” the ACLJ said, the case results are “nothing less than an abandonment of the very reason for its existence.”

Rachel had been ordered by the University of Vermont Medical Center to help with an abortion, even though she was on a list of nurses exempt from that duty. The legal case resulted.

But when the pro-abortion Joe Biden appointed the pro-abortion Becerra to head the HHS, the Church Amendment suddenly became toothless.

The ACLJ reported, “Of course, we all know what really happened here. The previous administration took seriously its role to protect conscience rights. But the Biden administration is so beholden to its extreme ‘abortion-is-awesome!’ wing that they can’t even bring themselves to recognize that conscience rights exist when it comes to abortion. Remember when the Department of Justice, under Bill Barr, was being daily lambasted for allowing itself to be ‘politicized?’ That was, what, about six months ago? Yet here we have a Department of Justice willing to completely abandon a lawsuit that it filed only eight months ago (!) without getting any concession whatsoever from the party it sued, and for no other reason than that there’s a new name at the top of the Department’s letterhead? ‘Politicized’ much?”

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