Judge Engelmeyer Vacates HHS "Conscience Rule" In Its Entirety Blog SDNY Blog

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

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.

A spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Department said it was studying the judge's ruling and would not comment.

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.

"This decision leaves health care professionals across America vulnerable to being forced to perform, facilitate, or refer for procedures that violate their conscience", Stephanie Taub, senior counsel for First Liberty Institute was quoted as saying.

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), called the decision "a destructive ruling" he prays will be reversed.

While Engelmayer described the rule as arbitrary and capricious, "nothing is more haphazard than giving the state unaccountable power to steamroll dissent", he said. "Everyone deserves to access the health care they need", said Acting President Alexis McGill Johnson. "Health care is a basic right that should never be subject to political games", she said.

"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 Sasse added in a statement.

The Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA) pledged to continue fighting for the conscience rights of medical professionals. "The administration's decision puts LGBTQ people at greater risk of being denied necessary and appropriate health care exclusively based on their sexual orientation or gender identity".

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.

"An activist judge has blocked a common-sense rule implementing laws passed by Congress to protect the conscience rights of physicians and other health care clinicians", White House deputy press secretary an special assistant to the president Judd Deere said, according to a Fox News report.

The regulation applied to all government entities, as well as private doctors, health-care providers, schools that provide medical training and health insurance plans that accept federal funding. The Court's finding that HHS failed to give proper notice of the definition it adopted of "discriminate or discrimination" voids that central dimension of the Rule. "As the federal district court made clear, the administration acted outside its authority and made false claims to try to justify this rule".

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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