Federal Judge Vacates Trump’s "Conscience" Rule for Healthcare Workers

Trump’s ‘conscience law’ would mean that doctors could legally refuse services to LGBT+ patients

Trump’s ‘conscience law’ would mean that doctors could legally refuse services to LGBT+ patients

Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Denial of Care Rule, which was issued in May by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), invites any health care worker - including doctors, nurses, EMTs, administrators, janitors and clerical staff - to deny medical treatment, information and services to patients because of personal religious or moral beliefs.

Engelmayer also concluded that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) falsified its reasons for creating the rule.

U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer said while some conscience provisions exist in federal law, the department did not have the authority to change them, nor did it have the authority to threaten to terminate federal HHS funds to a state that did not follow the new rules.

The rule spun out of President Donald Trump's promise to expand religious liberty protections under federal law.

The decision mirrors a similar decision in NY on Wednesday that also would prevent medical workers from refusing to participate in abortions and other procedures. Engelmayer was tasked with not only evaluating the rule on its merits but also on its ability to pass the arbitrary and capricious standard outlined by the constitution. "Health care is a basic right that should never be subject to political games", she said.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, criticized the district court judge's decision on Wednesday, calling it "absurd mush" and saying that "In this country, government doesn't get to tell you that your faith is fine on Sunday at church but not Monday at work". The decision calls for screenings and ongoing care to address the trauma caused by family separation and serves as a rare instance of the government being held liable for mental trauma brought about by policies.

U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian granted state attorneys a summary judgment in a lawsuit that argued the rule would hurt access to reproductive health care, end-of-life care decisions and care for transgender patients.

Nineteen states, the District of Columbia, three local governments, health organizations and others had sued to block the rule from taking effect November 22, arguing that it would be discriminatory and would interfere with people's access to health care. Federal health care funding could be cut off if federal officials believed the state violated the rule.

Rosie Phillips Davis, president of the American Psychological Association, said the HHS rule "could have jeopardized the health of some of our most vulnerable populations, including women, LGBT people and people with HIV or AIDS".

The HHS rule's violations of the Administrative Procedure Act - which governs the manner in which federal agencies establish rules - are "numerous, fundamental, and far-reaching", Engelmayer wrote.

The violations of conscience in recent years included reports by nurses in at least Illinois, New Jersey and NY that they were threatened with the loss of their jobs if they refused to participate in abortions.

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