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Judge Rejects Trump’s Religious Liberty Rule for Health Care Providers

08 November 2019

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.

The "Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care" rule was finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services in May and set to go into effect on November 22.

But Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, called the ruling "absurd mush" and urged the Trump administration to appeal.

Pro-choice groups applauded the decision. "This lapse made the Rule's promulgation arbitrary and capricious". However, California has filed its own lawsuit challenging the rule. HHS had issued a notice of violation to the hospital. The opinion has not yet been posted.

The formal title of the "Denial of Care" rule is the "Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care". Both rule changes are aimed at enabling people with religious objections to exercise those objections in the health services arena.

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Planned Parenthood Action praised the decision on Wednesday, saying that the HHS rule gave health care workers "a license to discriminate" and that "all patients should be able to access the care they need without judgment or discrimination".

The department could develop new rules but "must do so within the confines of the Administrative Procedures Act and the Constitution", he added. That law, said Engelmayer, "does not include any exception for religious and moral refusals to provide emergency care".

"This rule ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won't be bullied out of the healthcare field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life", Severino said when the rule was finalized in May.

"The Rule represents a classic solution in search of a problem", Engelmayer wrote in a 147-page decision.

The violations committed by the HHS rule, said the judge, "are numerous, fundamental, and far-reaching".

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"The Denial of Care Rule was deeply rooted in animus against some of our most marginalized and vulnerable communities, and that has no place in our society".

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.

On November 6, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of NY issued a ruling in State of NY v. HHS completely vacating the Denial of Care Rule.

President Donald Trump has been focusing to expand religious liberty and making it a priority, as he will be running for re-election next year. As a result of that executive order, then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo in October 2017, directing all federal agencies and departments to issue regulations complying with the executive order.

"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. If the rule is violated, the facility would not receive federal funding.

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Engelmayer's decision was also welcomed by Planned Parenthood. "It applies across the vast health care industry. It sets behavioral standards for those recipients".

Judge Rejects Trump’s Religious Liberty Rule for Health Care Providers