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Roger Severino

Roger Severino

Director, Office for Civil Rights

Roger Severino is an attorney with a primary focus on defending those who claim their ‘religious liberty’ has been violated for having to provide birth control, serve LGBTQ people and perform abortions. He previously directed the religious liberty program at The Heritage Foundation and before that worked for Becket, a conservative religious liberty law firm that fought extensively against the birth control mandate. Severino professionally disseminates his anti-choice, homophobic views in the name of religious freedom. 


The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is charged with enforcing anti-discrimination laws, health privacy laws, and conscience laws. The Washington Post reported that the Office for Civil Rights under Trump “has been greatly strengthening and expanding protections for health care providers who have religious- or conscience-based objections to procedures such as abortion.” It went on to say that “the makeover appears radical, one that critics worry will jeopardize the care of pregnant women and transgender individuals, as well as others who could be denied certain procedures.”


Policy Implementation Member of the Trump Transition Team, 2016 – 2017

Director, DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, The Heritage Foundation, 2015 – 2017

Trial Attorney, Civil Rights Division, Housing & Civil Enforcement Section, U.S. Department of Justice, 2008 – 2015

Chief Operations Officer and Legal Counsel, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, 2003 – 2008


Carrie Severino:

Roger Severino is married to Carrie Severino, the head of Judicial Crisis Network, “the dark-money group at the center of the conservative march to stack the courts.” She has called the allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh “a disgusting, politically motivated character assassination.” [The Nation, 9/5/18; Atlantic Online, 9/26/18]

March Bell:

Severino works closely with March Bell, the chief of staff at OCR. Bell previously ran the congressional committee investigating the “fetal tissue procurement industry” and recommended the complete defunding of Planned Parenthood. [Select Investigative Panel of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Committee, 12/30/16]


Severino Became One Of The First Government Officials In Memory To Speak At The National Right To Life Convention, Said “We’re Just Getting Started” When It Comes To “Life And Conscience”:

“For the first time in recent memory, an official from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spoke at a conference of the nation’s largest anti-abortion organization. 'Our president is fearless when it comes to life and conscience,' said Roger Severino, who directs the Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. 'We’re just getting started.' Severino was a featured speaker at the National Right to Life convention Thursday in Overland Park. A former Justice Department lawyer who has also worked for the Heritage Foundation, Severino told abortion opponents the story of a Catholic nurse who was coerced into assisting with an abortion against her beliefs. 'It happened in America and it should never happen again,' Severino said. 'This administration is dedicated to making sure it never happens again.'” [Wichita Eagle, 6/29/18]

Severino Argued Against Government Funding For Women’s Health Organizations, Specifically Planned Parenthood:

Severino: “Congress should not make Planned Parenthood eligible for a raise. Rather, it should bar Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from health care funding up front and redirect it to more comprehensive and life-affirming health care providers. Such a move would reflect the simple fact the Planned Parenthood has long since disqualified itself from taxpayer money because of its callous disregard for innocent human life.” [The Daily Signal, 9/23/16]

Severino Argued Against Obama-Era Protections For Transgender People Seeking Medical Transitions And For Abortions Because The Regulations Violate “Freedom Of Conscience”:

He wrote in 2016, “By prohibiting differential treatment on the basis of 'gender identity' in health services, these regulations propose to penalize medical professionals and health care organizations that, as a matter of faith, moral conviction, or professional medical judgment, believe that maleness and femaleness are biological realities to be respected and affirmed, not altered or treated as diseases…the proposed regulations may threaten the freedom of conscience of physicians, health care entities, and individuals who have religious or moral objections to abortion.” [Heritage Foundation, 1/8/16]

Severino Openly Discounts LGBT People’s Rights:

In 2016, he wrote that the North Carolina legislature’s bathroom bill was “what most people consider simple common sense—that biological men should not be given unfettered access to public bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms set aside for the needs, safety, and privacy of biological women…These developments prove that same-sex marriage was merely the start, not end, of the left’s LGBT agenda. The radical left is using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology over and above their right to privacy, safety, and religious freedom.” [The Daily Signal, 5/9/18]


Roger Severino Is Entrenched In The Anti-Abortion, Anti-Birth Control And Anti-LGBTQ Professional Sector

Severino Has Been An Outspoken Advocate Against Abortion

Atlantic: "Severino Has Been An Outspoken Advocate Against Abortion.” “For his part, Severino has been an outspoken advocate against abortion and same-sex marriage.” [The Atlantic, 6/7/17]

Severino Pointed To Hobby Lobby And Little Sisters Of The Poor Rulings To Claim That “The Obama Administration Is Hostile To Religious Freedom"

Pointing To The Hobby Lobby And Little Sisters Of The Poor Supreme Court Rulings On Birth Control, Severino Said That “The Obama Administration Is Hostile To Religious Freedom.” “The Supreme Court ruled against that mandate as it applies to closely-held for-profit companies in 2014. Another case involving numerous non-profits that object to the mandate on religious grounds will be heard by the court this year. 'The Obama administration is hostile to religious freedom,' said Severino. 'We have seen this with Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor.' 'Now the administration is trying to advance a specific gender ideology that redefines what it means to be a man or a woman,' he said. 'This gender ideology will result in discriminating against people who believe that a person's biology is something to be respected rather than something that should be treated as a disease.'" [Eurasia Review, 2/4/16]

Severino Opposed Federal Funding For Planned Parenthood, Saying It Should Be Ineligible Due To Its “Callous Disregard For Innocent Human Life”

Severino Wrote That Congress Should Make Planned Parenthood Affiliates Ineligible To Receive Medicaid Reimbursements Or Title X Grants If They Continue To Perform Abortions. Roger Severino wrote in a Heritage Foundation report, “To ensure that taxpayers are not forced to subsidize America’s number one abortion provider, Congress should make Planned Parenthood affiliates ineligible to receive either Medicaid reimbursements or Title X grants if they continue to perform abortions. Taxpayer money from these programs should instead be redirected to the more than 9,000 federally qualified health center sites throughout the country that provide comprehensive primary health care for those in need without entanglement in abortion.” [Roger Severino & Jamie Hall Report, Heritage Foundation, 9/20/15]

Severino Wrote That Planned Parenthood “Does Two Things Exceedingly Well—Ending Innocent Human Lives In The Womb For A Fee, And Getting American Taxpayers To Subsidize Its Operations.” Severino wrote in an op-ed in the Daily Signal, “Planned Parenthood has once again proven it does two things exceedingly well—ending innocent human lives in the womb for a fee, and getting American taxpayers to subsidize its operations. How else to explain Congress making America’s No. 1 abortion provider eligible for new funding when it already gets over a half-billion dollars (yes, billion) in taxpayer money per year?” [Roger Severino Op-Ed, Daily Signal, 9/23/16]

Severino Wrote That Congress Should Cut Off Funds Entirely From Planned Parenthood, “Especially After Undercover Videos Raised Serious Questions Over Whether Its Affiliates Were Illegally Profiting From Selling Organs Of Unborn Babies.” Severino wrote in an op-ed in the Daily Signal, “Instead of allowing Planned Parenthood access to new federal funding streams, Congress should be closing the spigot entirely. For example, when videos of alleged corruption and illegal voter fraud surfaced around the notorious left-wing group known as ACORN, Congress promptly defunded it. The same logic applies to Planned Parenthood, especially after undercover videos raised serious questions over whether its affiliates were illegally profiting from selling organs of unborn babies.” [Roger Severino Op-Ed, Daily Signal, 9/23/16]

Severino Claimed That Planned Parenthood’s “Core Business” Is “Industrial-Scale Abortions” And That It Has “Disqualified Itself From Taxpayer Money Because Of Its Callous Disregard For Innocent Human Life.” Severino wrote in an op-ed in the Daily Signal, “Thankfully, we still have landmark laws like the Hyde Amendment that prevent direct taxpayer funding of abortion. But while Planned Parenthood fights for Hyde’s repeal, it has used every trick in the book to get federal money by trying to pretend that its core business is anything but industrial-scale abortion. Congress should not make Planned Parenthood eligible for a raise. Rather, it should bar Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from health care funding up front and redirect it to more comprehensive and life-affirming health care providers. Such a move would reflect the simple fact the Planned Parenthood has long since disqualified itself from taxpayer money because of its callous disregard for innocent human life.” [Roger Severino Op-Ed, Daily Signal, 9/23/16]

Roger Severino Said Planned Parenthood “Should Have Been Disqualified From Tax-Payer Funding Log Ago Because Of Its Callous Treatment Of Human Life.” “As if reauthorizing millions upon millions in taxpayer dollars to the nation's largest abortion provider weren't bad enough, Planned Parenthood has strong-armed Congress into also getting a cut of emergency funding for combating the Zika virus. Under the continuing resolution, Planned Parenthood will be eligible for a raise even though it should have been disqualified from tax-payer funding long ago because of its callous treatment of human life. Congress should fund life-affirming health care providers that are ready to deal with the Zika threat comprehensively, not abortion providers trying to expand their profit base.” — Roger Severino, Director, DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society [Heritage Foundation Press Release, 9/22/16]

Roger Severino On The Zika Bill: “It’s Shameful That Planned Parenthood And Its Congressional Allies Were Able To Hold Emergency Health Funding Hostage Until ‘Big Abortion’ Got A Cut Of New Money.” “As the Senate nears a deal to fund the government, Heritage Foundation's Roger Severino, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, argues the proposed funding plan for fighting the Zika virus is 'essentially a raise' to Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider. 'It's shameful that Planned Parenthood and its congressional allies were able to hold emergency health funding hostage until "Big Abortion" got a cut of the new money,' Severino says. "Congress should fund compassionate and life-giving care with taxpayer funds, not an abortion industry that has disqualified itself by placing profits over respect for human life.'" [Heritage Foundation Press Release, 9/20/16]

Severino Criticized The Supreme Court Ruling That Overturned The Restrictive Texas Anti-Abortion Law Saying It Would Allow “Abortion Extremists To Keep Open Disreputable Abortion Clinics”

Severino Said The Supreme Court Ruling Against The Texas Anti-Abortion Law “Will Allow Abortion Extremists To Keep Open Disreputable Abortion Clinics That Fail To Meet Basic Safety And Cleanliness Standards Followed By Every Other Facility That Performs Invasive Surgeries.” “Following the Supreme Court decision regarding Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt, Heritage Foundation experts Roger Severino and Elizabeth Slattery said the Court ignored its own precedents in choosing to protect the profits of the abortion industry over protecting women's health. 'Today's ruling is a step backward for women's health,' they charge. 'The Court was wrong to strike down a reasonable law that protected women from unsafe abortion facilities like Kermit Gosnell's notorious and deadly "house of horrors" clinic. This decision will allow abortion extremists to keep open disreputable abortion clinics that fail to meet basic safety and cleanliness standards followed by every other facility that performs invasive surgeries.'" [Heritage Foundation Press Release, 6/27/16]

  • Severino Watched Oral Arguments And Hoped The Supreme Court Would Uphold A Texas Law That Restricted Abortion Access By Requiring Providers To Have Hospital Admitting Access And Meet The Requirements Of Outpatient Ambulatory Facilities. “The Supreme Court today held oral arguments in the potential landmark case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that concerns a Texas pro-life law. The law is arguably responsible for saving the lives of tens of thousands of unborn babies by closing abortion clinics that are unable to protect women’s health. The laws protects women’s health and welfare by requiring abortion clinics to meet the kinds of medical and safety standards that legitimate medical centers meet. Abortion advocates challenged the law and those facility regulations and hospital admitting requirements, arguing that these clinics should not be held to the same health standards as other outpatient ambulatory facilities…Roger Severino, director of the Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, watched the oral arguments and said he thought they went as expected. He is hopeful that Justice Kennedy will side with Texas in upholding the law. 'We had the liberal/conservative breakdown in the Court that you would expect among the justices, but Justice Kennedy, in the few questions he asked, showed some hesitation about courts second-guessing the state’s ability to regulate abortion clinics,' Severino said. 'Even Justice Breyer acknowledged the state’s intent in regulating abortion clinics was a legitimate desire to help further women’s health and not for some nefarious purpose.' 'Justice Alito repeatedly challenged the plaintiffs to point to the evidence that clinics closed because of these regulations as opposed to some other reason, and asked for any evidence that the abortion industry cannot adapt to the new standards,' he added. Severino emphasized 'this case is about the ability of Texas to increase the health and safety standards at abortion clinics. The abortion industry should not get a special exemption and Texas is well within its rights to act.'” [Life News, 3/2/16]

Severino Vocally Opposed Same Sex Marriage And Transgender Rights

Severino Argued That Obamacare’s Non-Discrimination Rule Threatened The Conscience Of Physicians Who “Believe That Maleness And Femaleness Are Biological Realities To Be Respected And Affirmed.” In January 2016, Severino co-authored an in-depth nine-page article arguing that Obamacare’s non-discrimination rule threatened the freedom of conscience of physicians who “believe that maleness and femaleness are biological realities to be respected and affirmed, not altered or treated as diseases.” [American Heritage Foundation, "Proposed Obamacare Gender Identity Mandate Threatens Freedom of Conscience and the Independence of Physicians,” 1/8/16]

The Atlantic: Severino “Vigorously Argued Against Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage And Mandated Accommodations For Transgender Individuals In School Locker Rooms Or Public Bathrooms.” “The issue that most sets Severino apart from others in the D.C. civil-rights community is LGBT rights. At Heritage, Severino vigorously argued against legalizing same-sex marriage and mandated accommodations for transgender individuals in school locker rooms or public bathrooms. He also took a strong stance against the previous administration’s ruling on Section 1557. In a January 2016 report co-authored with Ryan Anderson, who also led Heritage’s campaign against the legalization of same-sex marriage, Severino argued that ‘gender identity and sexual orientation …are changeable, self-reported, and entirely self-defined characteristics’ that do not deserve the protected-class status given to sex, race, and several other categories under federal civil-rights statutes.” [The Atlantic, 6/7/17]

…Now Severino Is Using His Official Position To Prioritize The Desires Of His Former Radical, Right-Wing Employers

Prior To Serving At The HHS, Severino Worked At Right-Wing Organizations The Heritage Foundation And The Becket Fund…

Severino Previously Served As Director Of The DeVos Center For Religion And Civil Society At The Heritage Foundation. “Severino, a Harvard Law School graduate who served as director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the conservative Heritage Foundation, has written and published extensively against leftist 'gender ideology' and the Obama administration’s promotion of transgenderism in the military.” [LifeSiteNews, 4/11/17]

Prior To Working At Heritage Foundation, Severino Was Legal Counsel For The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “Prior to his work at The Heritage Foundation, Severino was a trial attorney for the United States Department of Justice. He also served as legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Severino received his Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School.” [Health Care IT News, 3/24/17]

  • The Becket Fund Is Best Known For Its Legal Victories Against The Birth Control Mandate That Were Litigated After Severino’s Tenure There. “He also worked at the Becket Fund, the religious-liberty law firm best known for its victories in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell—cases litigated after Severino’s tenure that challenged Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate on religious grounds.” [The Atlantic, 6/7/17]

As OCR Director, Severino Created A New Internal Division To Facilitate Discriminate Against Transgender Individuals, Pandering To His Former Colleagues At The Heritage Foundation

On January 17, 2018, HHS’ OCR Announced A New Conscience Protection Division, To Protect Health Workers With “Moral Or Religious Objections To Performing Certain Procedures, Including Things Like Abortions Or Sex Reassignment Surgery For Transgender Patients.” “The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights is creating a new division to protect health workers with moral or religious objections to performing certain procedures, including things like abortions or sex reassignment surgery for transgender patients. The new division is called the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, and will be officially announced Thursday morning at an event at HHS. According to an invitation to the event provided to BuzzFeed News, the division will specialize ‘in enforcement of and compliance with laws that protect conscience and free exercise of religion, and that prohibit coercion and discrimination.’ HHS did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment.” [Buzzfeed, 1/17/18; HHS Press Release, 1/18/18]

Severino Seemed To Prioritize The Creation Of This Office At The Behest Of His Former Employer, The Heritage Foundation. “The head of OCR, Roger Severino, said in June that issuing these protections was a 'priority' for his office. His former employer, the Heritage Foundation, released a report in December urging the administration to provide these kinds of protections for medical workers.” [Buzzfeed, 1/17/18]

Severino Became First Official In Recent Memory To Speak To A Prominent Pro-Life Group And Touted The Trump Administration’s Rolling Back Of Birth Control Coverage

As The Head Of Civil Rights For HHS, Severino Spoke At The National Right To Life Convention. In June 2018, Severino spoke at the National Right to Life convention in Overland park, Kansas. During his speech, Severino stated that “our president is fearless when it comes to life and conscience …We’re just getting started.” [Wichita Eagle, 6/29/18]

Severino: “We Have Restored Religious Liberty When It Comes To The Contraceptive Mandate.” Severino also claimed that “we have restored religious liberty when it comes to the contraceptive mandate.” [Wichita Eagle, 6/29/18]

In An Move Led By Severino’s OCR, The Trump Administration Issued Finalized Rules To Allow Doctors To Deny Care On The Basis Of Moral Or Religious Beliefs

The May 2, 2019 Finalized Rule Will Make It Easier For Health Care Workers To Deny Care Based On Moral/Religious Beliefs. “The Trump administration Thursday finalized new rules making it easier for health care workers to refuse to provide care that violates their religious or moral beliefs, advancing a policy favored by anti-abortion groups and Christian conservatives closely allied with the Trump administration. [Politico, 5/2/19]

OCR Head Roger Severino Said The Rule Follows The Increase Of “Religious Or Moral Conscience Discrimination” Complaints OCR Received. “OCR says it received 1,333 complaints in fiscal 2018 alleging either religious or moral conscience discrimination. The number of religious complaints during the Obama administration wasn’t available, but conscience complaints averaged just 1.25 per year during the previous administration. Overall, the civil rights office received a total of 33,194 complaints in fiscal 2018 on any kind of discrimination — a 16 percent increase from the previous year. OCR enforces federal anti-discrimination laws affecting race, color, national origin, disability, age, and sex in programs that receive agency funding. The office took action on about 86 percent of discrimination cases overall, according to HHS’ fiscal 2020 budget request. So far, only two cases affecting religious or moral conscience complaints have been resolved since the division was formed. But Severino is looking to expand that. HHS is expected to soon release the final version of a rule that could broaden the types of issues that could qualify as a violation of religious or conscience rights.” [Roll Call, 4/17/19]

This Rule Builds Upon 25 Existent “Conscience Protection” Laws That Enable Doctors To Deny People Care On The Basis Of Their Own Ideology

The Rule, Which Mentions ‘Abortion’ Over 150 Times, Would Expand The Types Of Activities That Health Professionals Could Decline To Assist In On Moral/Religious Grounds. “The upcoming release of the agency’s rule will give Severino’s office additional authority. Despite rising concerns from some liberal advocacy groups about the proposed version, Severino said the rule will only be used to build on Congress’ intentions. The rule, which has been under final review since January, would expand the types of activities health professionals could decline to assist in on moral or religious grounds. Severino said Congress has passed 25 difference conscience protections over the years, and said the rule would allow OCR to better enforce these policies. Many of these provisions deal with different aspects of abortion. The word ‘abortion’ is mentioned over 150 times in the proposed version of the rule.” [Roll Call, 4/17/19]

Just Before The Rule Was Finalized, OCR Changed Its Mission Statement To More Aggressively Investigate “Religious Freedom” Violations

The Office For Civil Rights Changed Its Mission Statement To Call Itself An “HHS Law Enforcement Agency.” “…the office last week changed its mission statement to reflect it is now an "HHS law enforcement agency” that will more aggressively investigate potential violations of religious freedom. Office leaders have said more than 300 complaints about conscience rights were received in fiscal year 2018.” [Politico, 5/2/19]

  • The OCR Mission Statement Did Not Previously Include “Conscience And Religious Freedom” Or “Religious Discrimination” Language. “Between April 24, 2019 and April 30, 2019, HHS altered the ‘OCR Leadership’ page (Webpage 1) on its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) website to overhaul the “OCR Mission & Vision” section. The section previously did not include any references to ‘conscience and religious freedom’ or ‘religious discrimination.’ It now includes text that states the office ‘educates the public concerning our nation’s civil rights, conscience and religious freedom’ and ensures that HHS-conducted or funded programs ‘comply with federal laws that guaranteee [sic] the protection of conscience and free exercise of religion and prohibit coercion and religious discrimination.’” [Sunlight Foundation, 5/1/19]