Judge strikes down new federal abortion rule

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A federal judge Wednesday blocked the Trump administration's rule allowing healthcare workers to refuse to provide abortions - and other procedures - that violate their religious beliefs.

Neither the Health and Human Services Department, nor the Department of Justice immediately responded to a request for comment.

Engelmayer says his ruling came in three consolidated lawsuits.

The lawsuit, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, argued the rule illegally favored the personal views of health-care workers over the needs of patients and threatened to hobble the ability of state-run health-care facilities to provide effective care.

"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.

The rule stemmed from a 2017 executive order from President Donald Trump directing his administration to "to vigorously enforce Federal law's robust protections for religious freedom".

Judge Paul Engelmayer, an Obama appointee, sided against the Trump administration.

The department's violations of federal law, according to the judge's opinion, were "numerous, fundamental, and far-reaching" - and he vacated the rule entirely, just over two weeks before it was set to take effect November 22. A federal judge found the rule issued earlier this year to be an overreach by the department.

The judge granted that the "Conscience Provisions" of federal law "recognize and protect undeniably important rights", and stressed that his ruling "leaves HHS at liberty to consider and promulgate rules governing these provisions".

The Department of Health and Human Services lacked authority to create major portions of its rule, including to terminate an entity's federal health funding if it violates one of the provisions.

"Trust is the cornerstone of the physician-patient relationship", Leana Wen, former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said when the group sued to stop the rule in June.

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