Earlier this month during the National Day of Prayer, President Trump announced a new “conscience rule” that would allow medical providers to refuse care if it conflicts with their religious beliefs. The new rule is scheduled to take effect in July, and advocates say it could prevent religious institutions and workers from violating their religious beliefs. This could allow providers to opt-out of care for many vulnerable populations, including those seeking abortions or gender-affirming healthcare procedures.
The organizations challenging the new rule say it was improperly implemented and could be confusing and dangerous. Groups that teamed up to fight the new rule include Lambda Legal, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Center for Reproductive Rights. These groups say that the new rule would be difficult to implement and that healthcare facilities could easily be forced to stop providing reproductive or LGBTQ health services altogether.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
The lawsuit argues that the new 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.
“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 and CEO of The Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement. “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.”