‘Conscience objection’ rule for medical care delayed after legal challenge

Posted at 8:11 PM, Jun 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-28 22:11:01-04

The Trump administration has agreed to delay a nationwide rule that would allow health care workers to deny services for religious reasons, according to a news release by the San Francisco city attorney.

The rule on religious conscience protections for the medical field was aimed at protecting religious and moral objectors from participating in or paying for services such as abortion, sterilization and assisted suicide.

The rule was set to take effect on July 22, but after Dennis J. Herrera, the city attorney of San Francisco, filed a lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction to halt the rule from taking effect, the US Department of Health and Human Services agreed to delay it until at least November 22, the news release says.

“Faced with the law, the Trump administration blinked,” Herrera said. “We have won this battle — and it was an important one — but the fight is not over. The Trump administration is trying to systematically limit access to critical medical care for women, the LGBTQ community, and other vulnerable patients. We’re not going to let that happen. We will continue to stand up for what’s right. Hospitals are no place to put personal beliefs above patient care. Refusing treatment to vulnerable patients should not leave anyone with a clear conscience.”

Herrera filed a legal challenge against the administration after the rule was announced in May.

CNN has reached out to HHS for comment.

According to the HHS Office for Civil Rights, the rule would protect individuals and health care entities from unwanted involvement with services such as abortion, sterilization or assisted suicide. The rule, according to the office, reestablishes existing protections created by Congress.

The final rule also notes that complaints submitted to the office about gender dysphoria-related surgeries will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The proposed conscience rule was submitted in January 2018 alongside HHS’ creation of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within its civil rights office, which provides resources and personnel to enforce the new guidelines and ensure compliance.