Trump era rule had been blocked by three separate federal courts, with one judge finding the rule “saturated with error” in the lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal, Americans United for Separation for Church and State, Center for Reproductive Rights, and County of Santa Clara.
Today, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule replacing much of a Trump-era rule that invited any health care worker – including doctors, nurses, EMTs, administrators, janitors, and clerical staff – to withhold medical treatment, information and services to patients because of personal religious or moral beliefs.
Lambda Legal Chief Legal Officer Jennifer C. Pizer issued the following statement:
“While the earlier discriminatory and dangerous rule has been blocked for more than five years, it nonetheless has loomed ominously over both health care providers and potential patients, representing the very real threat of blockages of medical care delivery when patients are most in need. We are grateful that HHS has removed from the books the prior rule’s explicit invitation to discriminate against pregnant people, anyone in need of gender-affirming medical care, and LGBTQ+ patients in general, regardless of their medical needs. No patient– no matter their religion, sex, race, gender identity, or sexual orientation – should fear being denied the medical care they need based on other people’s religious beliefs.”
The so-called “Denial of Care Rule,” which was issued in May 2019, confronted health care facilities with the real risk losing essential federal funding if they did not grant employees carte blanche to deny services. Because the rule was confusing and infeasible to implement, many health care facilities could have been forced to eliminate services such as reproductive and LGBTQ care, leaving millions across the United States without access to critical health care.
The rule was blocked six months later in three separate federal lawsuits filed in three separate federal districts: the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York; the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Lambda Legal, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the County of Santa Clara filed the third lawsuit where, in his November 19, 2019 ruling, Judge William Alsup characterized the rule as “saturated with error.”
The plaintiffs in that lawsuit include the County of Santa Clara, which runs an extensive health and hospital system that serves as a safety-net provider for the county’s 1.9 million residents; the health providers Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, Pa., Center on Halsted in Chicago, Hartford GYN in Connecticut, Los Angeles LGBT Center, Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia, Trust Women Seattle and Whitman-Walker Health in Washington, D.C.; the associations AGLP, GLMA and Medical Students for Choice; and five doctors.