Sexuality Education

In Unconscionable Move, HHS Creates New Division to Encourage Discrimination

For Immediate Release
January 18, 2018

Contact: Zach Eisenstein
Phone: (202) 265-2405 ext 333

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the formation of their “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” within HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

“Yet again, we’re seeing this administration prioritize ideology over equality,” said Chitra Panjabi, SIECUS President and CEO. “Rather than supporting HHS’ alleged mission to enhance health care for all, this new division unleashes a flood of opportunities for providers to deny care to patients simply for who they are.”

On the main page of the new division’s website, HHS notes that they will specifically prohibit coercion on issues such as “abortion” and “assisted suicide,” among others, through enforcing laws and regulations in the name of moral or religious freedom.

In addition to permitting the denial of life-saving care to people seeking abortions, this announcement also increases providers’ ability to refuse contraception to those who seek it, and creates opportunities to further discriminate against the LGBTQ community.

“Already, many LGBTQ individuals report mistreatment while attempting to seek health care,” Panjabi said. “We’ve heard stories of doctors refusing to treat trans patients and pediatricians denying children care because of how their parents identify. Today’s actions will only increase these instances of injustice.”

“The Office for Civil Rights is supposed to ensure that all people have equal access to critical health and human services programs—including those in our most vulnerable and marginalized communities. However, this new division undermines this mission, and will only worsen current health care inequities,” Panjabi said.


SIECUS affirms that sexuality is a fundamental part of being human, one that is worthy of dignity and respect. We advocate for the right of all people to accurate information, comprehensive education about sexuality, and sexual health services. SIECUS works to create a world that ensures social justice and sexual rights.