San Francisco, Calif., Nov 20, 2019 / 14:00 pm
A third federal judge has struck down the Trump administration’s conscience protection rule for medical professionals who object to abortions because of their religious beliefs.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled on Tuesday, Nov. 19, that the Department of Health and Human Services rule, “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority,” was too broad and would have permitted medical professionals that were not doctors or nurses, such as ambulance drivers and receptionists, to refuse to do their jobs if they involved abortion.
Alsup, ruling for the District Court for Nothern California, is the third judge to block the rule. In early November, federal judges in Washington state and New York also moved to strike the rule.
"An ambulance driver would be free, on religious or moral grounds, to eject a patient en route to a hospital upon learning that the patient needed an emergency abortion,” said Alsup in his ruling. Alsup sits on the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
Presently, there are certain legal protections for medical professionals and conscience rights. Conscience rights campaigners say that these laws are not always followed or enforced, and the new rule was designed to clarify rights and entitlements available to those who have had their consciences violated.
In 2011, HHS issued a rule which “provided inadequate enforcement of conscience rights,” according to the Trump administration. That rule was based on three laws. The 2019 rule was based on more than two dozen statutory provisions that protect conscience rights.
In response to the 2019 rule, a coalition of 19 states, the District of Columbia, local governments, and pro-abortion groups including Planned Parenthood’s national federation and Northern New England affiliate, all sued the administration.
“This rule ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life,” said Office of Civil Rights Director Roger Severino. “Protecting conscience and religious freedom not only fosters greater diversity in health care, it’s the law.”