(WASHINGTON) — The Trump administration on Thursday announced a new rule that “protects” health care entities and individuals who object to abortion on religious grounds.President Donald Trump announced the rule in the Rose Garden during a speech on the National Day of Prayer, touting his administration’s work defending religious liberties.”Just today we finalized new protections of conscience rights for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students and faith-based charities,” Trump said.It’s the latest development in the ongoing abortion debate that has regained steam in the Trump era, as critics argue that the future of legal abortion is in jeopardy with Trump’s administration stacked with anti-abortion officials and the Supreme Court’s conservative lean.Presented by the Department of Health and Human Services as a civil rights issue, the final conscience rule “protects individuals and health care entities from discrimination on the basis of their exercise of conscience in HHS-funded programs,” according to an HHS news release.The rule “clarifies what covered entities need to do to comply with applicable conscience provisions and requires applicants for HHS federal financial assistance to provide assurances and certifications of compliance,” the news release said.”These federal laws protect providers, individuals, and other health care entities from having to provide, participate in, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for, services such as abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide. It also includes conscience protections with respect to advance directive,” the news release said.HHS Office of Civil Rights Director Roger Severino said in a statement that the rule “ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life.””Protecting conscience and religious freedom not only fosters greater diversity in healthcare, it’s the law,” his statement added.This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.

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