President Donald Trump took action on the National Day of Prayer Thursday to protect health care workers and organizations that object to procedures like abortion or assisted suicide on moral or religious grounds.
Conservatives believe the First Amendment clearly protects people from being forced to violate their own religious beliefs on issues like abortion.
"Just today we finalized new protections of conscience rights for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students and faith-based charities," Trump announced in the White House Rose Garden. "They've been wanting to do that for a long time."
Liberals like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are furious, calling the religious freedom protections "bigoted" and "immoral." She added, "This is an open license to discriminate against Americans."
The city of San Francisco immediately sued to block the conscience regulation.
Roger Severino, head of the office that will enforce it at the Department of Health and Human Services, said no one should "have to shed their religious beliefs to participate in health care." He added that "certain medical professions such as OB-GYN should not be declared pro-life-free zones."
HHS received more than 1,300 complaints last year that health care workers faced discrimination for their religious beliefs or conscience issues.
Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Kellie Fiedorek said this new regulation is vitally important. "One of the freedoms Americans have cherished most is the freedom to live according to their faith and conscience, free from government coercion. Unfortunately, ADF clients and other nurses, doctors, and health care providers have faced discrimination and even have lost their jobs because of their commitment to saving life."
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) applauded the move saying, "I'm grateful that HHS is taking meaningful action to protect the conscience rights of all Americans. Health care should be about saving life, not taking life. Health care providers should never be forced or coerced into participating in abortion. The Office for Civil Rights is now better empowered to protect individuals from having their moral convictions about the sanctity of human life violated."
Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins also praised Trump's move saying, "Protecting the right of all health care providers to make professional judgments based on moral convictions and ethical standards ... is necessary to ensure that access to health care is not diminished, which would occur if they were forced out of their jobs because of their ethical stances."