Judge strikes down new federal abortion rule

August Mulvihill of Norwalk Iowa center holds a sign depicting a wire clothes hanger during a rally at the Statehouse in Des Moines Iowa to protest recent abortion bans. On Wednesday Nov. 6 2019

August Mulvihill of Norwalk Iowa center holds a sign depicting a wire clothes hanger during a rally at the Statehouse in Des Moines Iowa to protest recent abortion bans. On Wednesday Nov. 6 2019

A federal district judge in NY has ruled against a Trump administration rule meant to protect the conscience rights of health care workers.

U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer agreed with James' argument and ruled that the HHS policy, which would have stripped organizations' federal funding if they refused to comply with the "conscience rule", was too coercive.

The rule would have protected "conscience rights" in health care by reinforcing at least two dozen laws that allow doctors, nurses, technicians and other providers to opt out of procedures such as abortions or gender-change procedures they object to on personal or religious grounds.

The rule let clinicians object to providing abortions and other services that conflict with their moral and religious beliefs.

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".

"HHS, together with DOJ [the Department of Justice], is reviewing the court's opinion and so will not comment on the pending litigation at this time", the department said in an email to FierceHealthcare.

Plaintiffs challenging the rule included Chicago and Washington, D.C., as well as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, states where Trump prevailed in the 2016 presidential election.

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Engelmayer mentioned his ruling came in 3 consolidated lawsuits.

"The refusal of care rule was an unlawful attempt", she continued.

Although the Trump administration asserted it implemented the rule in a "significant increase" of complaints by health care agencies unsure of the rules for exemptions, Engelmayer finds that claim "flatly untrue".

The judge granted that the "Conscience Provisions" of federal law "recognize and protect undeniably important rights", and stressed that his ruling "leaves HHS at liberty to consider and promulgate rules governing these provisions".

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.

"Like the Conscience Provisions it purports to construe, the Rule equally accommodates all conscience-based objections to covered health care services and research activities", Engelmayer writes.

"These limits have clear potential to inhibit the employer's ability to organize workplace arrangements to avoid inefficiencies and dislocations", Engelmayer said.

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