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Biden administration drops “most open and shut” case of a violation of conscience in over a decade

by | Aug 5, 2021

 By Dave Andrusko

On Tuesday we reported on the tragic—but utterly predictable—decision by the Biden-Harris administration’s Department of Justice to drop a civil suit against the University of Vermont Medical Center which stood accused of compelling a nurse to be a party to an abortion. That suit was initiated on December 16, 2020, by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. In a statement, the Justice Department under then-President Donald Trump explained that the lawsuit

alleges that UVMMC violated the Church Amendments when it chose intentionally and willfully to discriminate against a nurse who plainly made her objection to participating in abortions based on her religious beliefs or moral convictions known to UVMMC.

Fox News covered the decision to drop the suit last Friday, and quoted Roger Severino, who is the former head of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights (OCR). He told Fox News’s Sam Dorman, “It’s  a dereliction of duty that is an insult to the bipartisan consensus that says you cannot force people to assist in abortions.”

Severino then wrote a fine piece for National Review Online, headlined, “Becerra and Biden Betray Medical Professionals Being Forced to Assist in Abortions.” It is immensely instructive and foreshadows what we can predict from an administration that has no interest in honoring conscience or freedom of religion if they get in the way of their anti-life agenda.

Severino writes that “The UVMMC matter was the most open and shut conscience case in over a decade.” He tells us that 

“Don’t hate me” is “what an abortionist at the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) said to a nurse before she forced her to assist in the termination of a child’s life on pain of losing her job and potentially her license if she refused,” according to that aforementioned  lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

In spite of all the evidence, “on Friday, the DOJ quietly, and voluntarily, dismissed the case,” Severino wrote. “No admission of guilt, no injunction, no corrective action, no settlement, no nothing. Worse yet, because the victim has few to no options to sue on her own (due to nuances around private rights of action), the Biden administration is effectively giving UVMMC a full pardon and will continue to give it federal funds, despite it having been found by HHS to have violated the law.”

One question, among many. Why is Big Abortion “desperate to eliminate conscience protections for medical professionals that have been in place for decades”? In part, Severino writes, “because it helps their bottom line to have more people complicit in their sordid business. And now with President Biden and HHS secretary Xavier Becerra in power, the abortion industry is getting its wish.”

And regardless of numerous assurances he would honor conscience, there are real reasons “Becerra may be the most notorious violator of conscience laws in recent years,” Severino writes. 

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.

Which Severino aptly describes as “this looming conflict of interest.”

Since the essay should be read in its entirety, let me offer just one more quote:

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.

Severino’s conclusion is tough but fair: “We now know, if there was ever any doubt, that Biden and Becerra’s first loyalty is not to their proclaimed Catholic faith or to the law, but to abortion, abortion, and more abortion.”

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