Donald Trump announced earlier this month that his Department of Health and Human Services had finalized a rule that would allow doctors, nurses, insurance providers, and employers to refuse service to LGBTQ people if it violated their religious beliefs. (He first discussed the rule more than a year earlier.
The actual “rule” was a 440-page document laying out new “conscience regulations.” All hospitals, clinics, universities, etc. that received federal funding (including Medicare and Medicaid) would have to say they’re complying with the “conscience” rules in order to keep receiving money.
After the rule was published in the Federal Register, it would be 60 days until it went into effect. We’re in that 60 days right now, and a trio of organizations announced that they are suing the Trump administration to prevent this discriminatory set of rules from going into effect. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Lambda Legal are representing a slew of individuals and LGBTQ organizations in the case.
The lawsuit argues that the rule is unconstitutional because it advances specific religious beliefs in violation of the First Amendment; violates patients’ rights to privacy, liberty and equal dignity as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment; and chills patients’ speech and expression in violation of the First Amendment, all to the detriment of patients’ health and well-being. The lawsuit also asserts that HHS violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act in creating the rule by arbitrarily and capriciously failing to consider the impact on patients.
“The Trump administration will stop at nothing to sanction discrimination in the name of religion in every facet of our lives,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United. “We will not tolerate this dangerous policy that puts the health of women, LGBTQ people, religious minorities and so many others in jeopardy. Our government should be protecting America’s patients, not putting their lives at risk and calling it religious freedom. The Constitution does not condone this type of grave harm to others.”
“The breadth of the harm this new rule will cause is impossible to exaggerate, and opens up yet another front in the Trump Administration’s assault on civil rights of minorities and already marginalized, vulnerable populations,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Jamie Gliksberg said. “This almost limitless invitation to discriminate will inevitably result in women, LGBT people and religious minorities facing hostile health care workers and denials of medical care at moments of greatest need, where any delay could be fatal.”
“Discrimination in the delivery of health care can be a matter of life or death. This new policy could threaten anyone seeking medical care in this country, but will fall particularly hard on women and LGBTQ patients,” said Nancy Northup, president & CEO of The Center for Reproductive Rights. “The Trump Administration is skirting Congressional approval to push through this extreme and dangerous policy. It’s a glaring violation of patients’ right to equal treatment.”
In addition to patients not receiving care if their Christian doctors believe it’s immoral to help them, the groups say that the new rules “could also lead to many LGBTQ patients not fully disclosing their identity and medical history for fear of discrimination, resulting in improper or incomplete care.” It’s not just those patients who could suffer. Depending on what they need help with — including assisted dying for those in pain, or morning after pills for victims of rape, or non-Christians who make religion-specific requests — everyone stands to lose with these new rules in place.
The Trump administration is replacing the Hippocratic Oath with a new standard of care that says “I’ll do harm to whomever I damn well please.” It’s typical of conservative Christians who care for nobody but themselves and those who share their delusions.
The lawsuit calls for a judge to declare the “Denial of Care” rule “unlawful and unconstitutional.” Which means we should see a resolution to the matter, one way or another, relatively quickly.
We should be grateful that groups like these are pushing back against an administration that treats cruelty as a health care policy.
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