Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar supporting proposed rules that would assure the principles of federalism, religious freedom and freedom of conscience are restored to their proper place in our constitutional system of government. Texas and Arizona co-led the comment letter, which was signed by 17 state attorneys general.

 

In January, HHS said it intended to rescind Obama-era guidance that sought to protect government funding for abortion providers by excluding states and health care providers from federally funded programs based on their respect for the sanctity of human life. HHS also announced a new proposed rule that would designate its Office for Civil Rights to enforce 25 existing statutory conscience protections for Americans involved in HHS-funded programs. Those laws protect people from being coerced into participating in activities – such as abortion – that violate their religious and moral beliefs.

 

“It is encouraging to see HHS taking concrete steps to restore the rule of law and respect for our Constitution,” Attorney General Paxton said. “All of us must be able to abide by our religious, moral and ethical beliefs without fear that our government will intimidate and discriminate against us for doing so.”

 

In the letter, the attorneys general expressed concern that HHS in the past excluded the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from a grant program to help victims of human trafficking because the charity did not refer individuals for abortion services. They also reminded the department that Texas was excluded from the Title X grant program in 2012 “because of actions taken by the Legislature to protect the widely-held religious and moral convictions of Texas taxpayers concerning abortion.”

 

“These types of actions undermine the constitutional and statutory protections for religious freedom and conscience rights, and the department’s proposal would put in place a check to ensure such actions do not occur in the future,” the attorneys general wrote.

 

Texas and Arizona are joined in the letter by Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.