STATEMENT: American Nurses Association Responds to the HHS Announcement of the New Conscience and Religious Freedom Division (1/18/18)

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January 18, 2018


Shannon McClendon, 301-628-5391

Rachel Farbman, 301-628-5062

STATEMENT: American Nurses Association Responds to the HHS Announcement of the New Conscience and Religious Freedom Division

Silver Spring, MD – The following statement is attributable to Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), in response to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announcement of the formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division.

"The American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements states that a nurse has a duty to care. It also states a nurse is justified in refusing to participate in a particular decision or action that is morally objectionable, so long as it is a conscience-based objection and not one based on personal preference, prejudice, bias, convenience, or arbitrariness. Nurses are obliged to provide for patient safety, to avoid patient abandonment, and to withdraw only when assured that nursing care is available to the patient. Nurses who decide not to participate on the grounds of conscientious objection must communicate this decision in a timely and appropriate manner, in advance and in time for alternate arrangements to be made for patient care. Nurses should not be discriminated against by employers for exercising a conscience based refusal.

However, we must take care to balance health care professionals’ rights to exercise their conscience with patients’ rights to access a full range of health care services. Discrimination in health care settings remains a grave and widespread problem for many vulnerable populations and contributes to a wide range of health disparities. All patients deserve universal access to high quality care and we must guard against erosion of any civil rights protections in health care that would lead to denied or delayed care."

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The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the premier organization representing the interests of the nation's 3.6 million registered nurses. ANA advances the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting a safe and ethical work environment, bolstering the health and wellness of nurses, and advocating on health care issues that affect nurses and the public. ANA is at the forefront of improving the quality of health care for all. For more information, visit

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