Advocates sue Trump administration over 'conscience protection' rule

A coalition of advocacy groups on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, becoming the latest organizations to challenge the administration’s new rule that allows health care providers to refuse to provide care because of their religious beliefs.

The groups, which include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA), argued that the rule “encourages and authorizes discrimination by unlawfully granting a wide swath of institutions and individuals broad new rights to refuse to provide health care services and information.”

The lawsuit claims the rule’s sweeping terms are also likely to embolden refusals to provide a range of other health services.

The final rule “imposes a virtually absolute obligation to accommodate employee objections, regardless of impact, giving employees carte blanche to refuse to do core aspects of their job and yet stay in their role,” the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit asks a federal judge in the Southern District of New York to declare the rule unconstitutional and block it from taking effect.

The rule is scheduled to take effect July 22. Its proponents say it aims to protect health care workers and institutions from having to violate their religious or moral beliefs by participating in abortions, providing contraception, sterilization or other procedures.

Tuesday’s lawsuit is the latest challenge to the rule, which President TrumpDonald John TrumpTop Armed Services Republican plots push for 0B defense budget Amash exits House Freedom Caucus in wake of Trump impeachment stance Amash exits House Freedom Caucus in wake of Trump impeachment stance MORE personally announced last month during the National Day of Prayer.

A coalition led by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) filed a similar lawsuit last month, as did California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraMegachurch leader charged with sex crimes in California Megachurch leader charged with sex crimes in California Overnight Health Care: Anti-abortion Democrats take heat from party | More states sue Purdue over opioid epidemic | 1 in 4 in poll say high costs led them to skip medical care MORE (D). Additional challenges have come from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Women’s Law Center, and Democracy Forward.  

The rule is part of a recent string of policies from the Trump administration that favor religious conservatives. In the past month, the administration also proposed a policy that would roll back anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ patients.

In addition, the administration is attempting to stop providers receiving federal family planning grants from referring women for abortions. That proposal was recently blocked in federal court.

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