HHS Office for Civil Rights:  Here to Serve You
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HHS Office for Civil Rights: Here to Serve You

October 16, 2019

Hello, my name is Roger Severino and I am
the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services. My office is charged with enforcing three types of federal civil rights laws:
Laws protecting the privacy and security of health information such as HIPAA; Laws prohibiting
discrimination in health and human services on the basis of race, national origin, age,
sex, or disability; and Laws protecting conscience and religious freedom in health care and human
services. In January of 2018, we launched a new Conscience
and Religious Freedom Division within the Office for Civil Rights to make sure our existing
conscience and religious freedom laws get the focused attention that they deserve. Conscience and religious freedom are fundamental,
natural human rights that are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution and
laws at the federal, state, and local level. Such protections have been part of our national
story since the Founding. For example, our laws have protected people
morally opposed to the taking life in war since the American Revolution and through
the Vietnam War era. America also has a long tradition of not forcing
anyone, including doctors or pharmacists, to help in the execution of people convicted
of capital crimes. In line with this tradition, the Office for
Civil Rights enforces long-standing laws protecting doctors and nurses who, for example, refuse
to participate in the taking of life through abortion or assisted suicide, and people and
institutions that decline to pay, cover, or refer for abortions. Patients are also protected from government
punishment for declining to receive treatments or undergo procedures that violate their conscience
or religious convictions.To learn more about our new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division
and about all the laws that we enforce, we encourage you to visit us at hhs.gov/ocr. If you believe that a covered entity has violated
your civil rights, conscience and religious freedom, or health information privacy, you
may file a complaint through our website. The HHS Office for Civil Rights is dedicated
to protecting all of these rights under law, and we are here to serve you. Produced by the U.S. Department of Health
& Human Services at taxpayer expense.

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