Sunday, 17 November, 2019

Federal judge blocks HHS 'conscience rule' for health care workers

Over a thousand New Yorkers joined pro-choice activist groups and elected officials at Foley Square Judge strikes down new federal abortion rule
Anna Jefferson | 08 November, 2019, 20:38

A federal judge on Wednesday voided the Trump administration's "conscience rule" that would have allowed health-care providers to refuse to participate in abortions, sterilizations or other procedures they disagree with on religious or moral grounds.

"Wherever the outermost line where persuasion gives way to coercion lies, the threat to pull all HHS funding here crosses it", Engelmayer wrote in a 147-page decision. "We just defeated the Trump administration's rule that would have allowed healthcare providers to deny patients information and treatment based on personal religious or moral beliefs".

"No one should have to worry they will be denied the medical care they need simply due to their health care provider's religious, moral, or personal beliefs", she said.

The California Attorney General's office did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

The rule would have protected "conscience rights" in health care by reinforcing at least two dozen laws that allow doctors, nurses, technicians and other providers to opt out of procedures such as abortions or gender-change procedures they object to on personal or religious grounds.

Although the Trump administration asserted it implemented the rule in a "significant increase" of complaints by health care agencies unsure of the rules for exemptions, Engelmayer finds that claim "flatly untrue".

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A coalition of 23 states and municipalities filed a lawsuit in a Manhattan federal court asking a judge to declare the rule unconstitutional and in excess of HHS' statutory jurisdiction. 6, 2019, a federal judge in NY struck down a rule letting health care clinicians object to providing abortions and other services on moral or religious grounds.

"We stand against this and every regulation that promotes discrimination, erects additional barriers to essential health care, and threatens the integrity of key HHS programs", the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association said in a statement. It also "clarifies what covered entities need to do to comply with applicable conscience provisions", "requires applicants for HHS federal financial assistance to provide assurances and certifications of compliance", and "specifies compliance obligations for covered entities".

Lawsuits challenging the rule argued that the department exceeded its authority in establishing the rule, violated the Constitution and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in creating it.

Engelmayer, an appointee of former Democratic President Barack Obama, said these protections "recognize and protect undeniably important rights", but the government's rulemaking "was sufficiently shot through with glaring legal defects".

"This unlawful rule is an outright attack on the health and wellness of millions of people across the country, and the court heard clear and compelling arguments about the harm communities face when our healthcare system is distorted to the point in which a patient's healthcare needs are not paramount", she said.

It also restricts the ability of employers to inquire about employees' objections and broadens the definition of health care entities to include pharmacists and medical laboratories.

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