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Judge Declares Trump Administration's 'No Conscience' Rule for Health Providers Unconstitutional

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Judge Declares Trump Administration's 'No Conscience' Rule for Health Providers Unconstitutional

2019-11-06 19:48:351 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Letitia James (Image source: Screenshot)

This wasn't a good news day for Donald Trump. Not only is it coming on the heels of U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland flipping on him and admitting to quid pro quo, but the Republicans lost some important key races on Tuesday, ones that Trump was particularly pushing to his base. Also, the prosecutors in Roger Stone's trial directly linked his lies to the need to protect Trump. 

On top of that, he lost a key argument in court today. A federal judge decided that the Trump administration's "no conscience" rule for health care providers is "unconstitutional."

This rule would have allowed health care providers to refuse to take part in abortions, sterilizations, or other health care they disagreed with on religious or moral grounds 

In a 147-page decision, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan wrote that the "no conscience" rule was "shot through with glaring legal defects," preventing it from going into effect later this month.

His ruling stated that the justification of a "significant increase" in complaints that were related to conscience violations "is flatly untrue. This alone makes the agency's decision to promulgate this rule arbitrary and capricious." 

New York and nearly two dozen other mostly Democratic states, municipalities, and health advocacy groups brought this lawsuit this past spring, arguing the rule illegally favored the personal views of health care workers over the needs of their patients, damaging the ability of state-run health care facilities to provide care.

"The refusal of care rule was an unlawful attempt to allow health care providers to openly discriminate and refuse to provide necessary health care to patients based on providers' 'religious beliefs or moral objections,' " said New York Attorney General Letitia James, who led the effort, in a statement. 

Physicians and health advocacy groups believed that the "no conscience" rule would harm certain groups of patients, such as the LGBTQ population, disproportionately.

"We are heartened by today's ruling, and we will not stop fighting to prioritize patients' needs for standard medical care over health care personnels' personal religious or moral beliefs," read a statement from the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. 

Initially a rule proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services's Office of Civil Rights last year, the purpose was to protect "conscience rights" of health care providers by reinforcing at least 25 laws already in play that allow doctors, nurses, technicians, and other health care providers to opt out of abortions, gender-change procedures, and other procedures they object to.

The Trump administration has been at work to limit these procedures anyway, specifically abortion access. They were successful with a rule that bars federal family planning grants from being used for abortions, including Planned Parenthood. International aid to groups that provide or offer abortions has been cut as well. 

In addition to the lawsuit by James and others, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the city of San Francisco filed lawsuits against the "no conscience" rule as well.

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