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Trump moving to protect religious rights of medical workers who oppose abortion

Click to play video: 'Agency in U.S. Health Department to protect religious rights of medical workers' Agency in U.S. Health Department to protect religious rights of medical workers
WATCH ABOVE: Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced said Thursday that a new "conscious and religious freedom division" in the U.S. Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights would aim at "treating people fairly." – Jan 18, 2018

WASHINGTON — Moving to solidify its standing with social conservatives, the Trump administration is creating an office to protect the religious rights of medical providers, including those who oppose abortion.

The announcement Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services drew immediate criticism from Democrats who said it could undermine the rights of women, gays and transgender people.

READ MORE: U.S. pulls funding for U.N. Population Fund over abortion concern

The new division will be part of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, which enforces federal anti-discrimination and privacy laws. The administration said it will focus on enforcing conscience and religious protections already part of federal law. No new efforts to expand such protections were announced.

“President Trump promised the American people that his administration would vigorously uphold the rights of conscience and religious freedom,” acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan said in a statement. “That promise is being kept today.”

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WATCH: U.S. Congress passes legislation to ban late-term abortions

Click to play video: 'U.S. Congress passes legislation to ban late-term abortions' U.S. Congress passes legislation to ban late-term abortions
U.S. Congress passes legislation to ban late-term abortions – Oct 4, 2017

The HHS civil rights office gets a small number of complaints involving religious and conscience rights, but the number has grown since President Donald Trump was elected.

Roger Severino, director of the HHS civil rights office, said that from 2008 to Nov. 2016, HHS received 10 such complaints. Since Trump won, the office has received new 34 complaints.

WATCH: Trump abortion funding cut being felt in poorest of countries

Click to play video: 'Trump abortion funding cut being felt in poorest of countries' Trump abortion funding cut being felt in poorest of countries
Trump abortion funding cut being felt in poorest of countries – Mar 5, 2017

Religious and social conservatives are a core constituency for the Trump administration. Trump will address via satellite Friday’s annual anti-abortion march in Washington.

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Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington was quick to criticize the administration’s decision to create the new office.

READ MORE: Donald Trump tells Christian public policy conference, ‘We’re saying merry Christmas again’

“This would be yet another attempt to let ideology dictate who is able to get the care they need,” Murray said in a statement. “Any approach that would deny or delay health care to someone and jeopardize their wellbeing for ideological reasons is unacceptable.”

Monday marks the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

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