Judge strikes down new federal abortion rule

Henrietta Strickland
November 8, 2019

A federal judge in NY has vacated a Trump administration "conscience rule" allowing health care workers to get out of procedures with which they have religious objections, such as abortion or gender reassignment surgery.

"No one should have to worry they will be denied the medical care they need simply due to their health care provider's religious, moral, or personal beliefs", she said.

"Wherever the outermost line where persuasion gives way to coercion lies, the threat to pull all HHS funding here crosses it", Engelmayer said.

Proposed by department's Office of Civil Rights more than a year ago, the rule was created to protect "conscience rights" of health-care providers by boosting enforcement of at least two dozen laws already on the books that allow doctors, nurses, technicians and other providers to opt out of procedures such as abortions or sex-reassignment procedures to which they object.

HHS told ABC News it will not comment on the pending litigation and is now reviewing the court's opinion alongside the Justice Department.

Engelmayer mentioned his ruling came in 3 consolidated lawsuits.

Plaintiffs had argued that the rule was unconstitutional. Other folks opposing the rule contain women's groups, businesses and states. "We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to protect access to health care and protect the rights of all individuals".

U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican running for reelection, has made expanding religious liberty a priority, and the conscience rule has drawn support from abortion opponents. It also "clarifies what covered entities need to do to comply with applicable conscience provisions", "requires applicants for HHS federal financial assistance to provide assurances and certifications of compliance", and "specifies compliance obligations for covered entities".

"There is no place for discrimination in health care, and we will continue our work to prevent the Trump administration from illegally wiping out decades of progress when it comes to patient care", Herrera wrote.

"Contrary to HHS's depiction of it as mere housekeeping, the rule relocates the metes and bounds -- the who, what, when, where, and how -- of conscience protection under federal law", the judge wrote in his 147-page opinion.

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.

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 rule, for the first time, put limits on an employer's ability to inquire about conscience objections, the judge said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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