In pushback against a new federal regulation that will deny reproductive care to the people who need it, nearly two dozen states and cities filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration yesterday (May 21).
Spearheaded by New York Attorney General Letitia James, the lawsuit of mostly Democrat-led states and municipalities was in response to the Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care rule. The regulation was published yesterday in the Federal Register and was issued by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. It allows health care providers, insurers and employers to refuse to provide or pay for medical services that violate their religious or moral beliefs—including abortion, sterilization and assisted suicide. It also strips health care institutions of federal funding if they do not respect the rights of these workers.
The lawsuit argues that the rule, referred to as the “conscience rule,” favors the personal views of health care workers over the needs of patients and will dangerously restrict the ability of state-run health care facilities to provide care. It also alleges “that the rule violates several federal laws, including those governing Medicare and Medicaid, civil rights statutes and a statute requiring hospitals to provide emergency care,” according to The Washington Post.
The suit, reports The New York Times, was brought by Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; the District of Columbia; Hawaii; Chicago, Cook County and the state of Illinois; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Nevada; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York City and state; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; Vermont; Virginia and Wisconsin.
Also yesterday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a separate lawsuit that alleges that the rule “encourages discrimination against vulnerable patients,” including women and LGBTQ patients.
After announcing the California lawsuit, Becerra called the actions of the administration illegal:
A war is being waged on access to #healthcare across our country from #Alabama to #Texas to Washington #DC, where once again the President and Vice President are issuing illegal rules that use healthcare as a political weapon while risking American lives #ProtectOurCare
— Xavier Becerra (@AGBecerra) May 21, 2019
Per The New York Times:
[The rule] is part of a portfolio of policy changes meant to broaden religious exemptions for certain types of medical practice. The administration has already created new exemptions for the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employer health plans cover contraceptive care, though that change has been delayed in court. Another rule, still in its proposed stage, would modify civil rights requirements that bar discrimination by hospitals and insurance companies against transgender patients and women with a history of abortion.