Judge Overturns Trump Rule that Protected Doctors Opposed to Abortion

Federal Judge Strikes Down Trump’s Conscience Rule for Medical Providers

A federal judge in Spokane, Washington, on Thursday struck down the Trump administration's so-called conscience protection rule that would have given medical workers the right to refuse care to patients on religious or moral grounds.

On October 30, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California heard arguments in County of Santa Clara v. HHS, where Lambda Legal and co-counsel argued that HHS exceeded its authority and arbitrarily and capriciously failed to consider the rule's potential harm to patients and the health care system, in violation of the federal Administrative Procedure Act.

HHS said that it was reviewing the ruling.

Washington was one of a number of states, cities and advocacy groups - including New York, California, San Francisco, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood - that had sued over the rule set to go into effect November 22, The Hill noted.

Sasse said the Trump administration must continue to defend the "basic rights of conscience" of citizenship, even if it means going to the Supreme Court.

"The Trump-Pence administration's latest attack threatens LGBTQ people by permitting medical providers to deny critical care based on personal beliefs", HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy said in a statement. He said that, while Congress gives agencies the authority to make rules to carry out federal laws, those rules must be related to "governing internal department affairs", not creating new "substantive legal obligations...." Both rule changes are aimed at enabling people with religious objections to exercise those objections in the health services arena.


The Court has carefully considered HHS's application to preserve parts of the Rule that are not compromised by legal deficiencies.

The problems with the new rules are "numerous, fundamental and far-reaching", the judge wrote. The lead lawsuit was initiated by New York State and 18 other states (including Illinois, Massachusetts, and Michigan), plus Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York City, and Cook County. The Denial of Care Rule, he noted, originated with an executive order from President Trump in May 2017. It required that federally-funded organizations be certified compliant with more than two dozen existing statutory conscience protections in health care.

While there are federal laws protecting the moral and religious rights of medical workers providing services to beneficiaries of federal funds, there is a regulatory gap that in practice preventing these individuals from expressing conscientious objection and forces them to perform these procedures against their will. Federal health care funding could be cut off if federal officials believed the state violated the rule.

"The Rule stands to affect a large portion of the economy", wrote Engelmayer. HHS estimates that it will cost around $1 billion to implement the Rule over its first five years, not including public health costs....

The general population also criticized Engelmayer's decision. "It sets behavioral standards for those recipients".

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