Second Judge Rejects HHS's 'Conscience Protection' Rule

Maricruz Casares
Noviembre 8, 2019

A federal district judge in Manhattan Wednesday struck down "in full" a regulation forged by the Trump administration that would have allowed health care providers receiving federal funds to cite "religious or moral objections" in order to deny services to certain patients. At least eight cases challenging the rule are wending their way through the courts. The opinion has not yet been posted.

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. Both rule changes are aimed at enabling people with religious objections to exercise those objections in the health services arena.

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.

HHS acted "arbitrarily and capriciously" in publishing the rule, federal judge Paul Engelmayer wrote. "As the federal district court made clear, the administration acted outside its authority and made false claims to try to justify this rule".

The Hill noted the rule was part of a series of policies outlined by HHS's Office for Civil Rights to reshape the agency to align with religious conservatives.

A federal judge in NY has ruled against President Donald Trump's "conscience rule" for healthcare providers criticized as allowing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That law, said Engelmayer, "does not include any exception for religious and moral refusals to provide emergency care".

The government said that the rule was needed because of a "significant increase" in complaints from healthcare providers unsure of the rules for religious exemptions.

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The problems with the new rules are "numerous, fundamental and far-reaching", the judge wrote. "The Denial of Care Rule targets some of our most marginalized and vulnerable communities and deserves to be relegated to the dustbin of history".

The November 6 ruling came in NY v. HHS, litigation that consolidated three lawsuits in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of NY.

The lawsuit was brought by the state of NY and more than 20 other states and cities.

In May, HHS said the new rule would protect health care workers "from having to provide, participate in, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for, services such as abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide". It would also allow providers to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals.

He acknowledged the rule protects some "important rights" and said the decision leaves HHS at liberty "to consider and promulgate rules governing these provisions". It required that federally-funded organizations be certified compliant with more than two dozen existing statutory conscience protections in health care. Entities that refuse to certify its compliance or that violate the Conscience Rule could have their federal funding terminated.

However, the measure, which was due to come into effect on November 22, was revoked by Engelmayer on the grounds that it is "coercive". HHS estimates that it will cost around $1 billion to implement the Rule over its first five years, not including public health costs....

Engelmayer's decision was also welcomed by Planned Parenthood.

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