ACLU Comment on Biden Administration Proposed Partial Repeal of Rule Allowing Refusals in Health Care

December 29, 2022 5:00 pm

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration today issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to partially repeal a dangerous and unnecessary Trump-era rule that would have allowed health care institutions and providers to deny patients treatment and information based on personal religious or moral beliefs.

“The Biden administration took an important first step toward repealing the most harmful aspects of this dangerous rule,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “At a time when health care access is under attack across the country, it is even more imperative that this illegal and harmful rule be repealed. Other people’s beliefs do not give them license to discriminate, to deny essential care, or to cause harm to others. Everybody deserves the ability to get the essential health care they need regardless of who they are or where they get care.”

The Trump-era rule would have dramatically expanded the ability of health care institutions and workers to refuse to provide medical services and information to patients based on moral or religious objection to the care — even in emergencies. It would have also forced health care centers that receive federal funds to employ individuals who refuse to perform essential job functions, without any regard for the well-being of their patients or public safety.

The refusal of care rule would have its most profound impact on access to reproductive health care, particularly for the millions of patients — who are disproportionately Black and Latinx — seeking options counseling and a referral for abortion in the Title X program. The rule could have allowed a hospital receptionist to refuse to schedule an appointment for a patient seeking gender-affirming care or a paramedic to refuse to take a patient seeking an emergency abortion to the hospital.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union successfully challenged the rule on behalf of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA) and Public Health Solutions (PHS). The ACLU lawsuit was one of multiple successful challenges to the rule, including from a coalition of 23 cities and states led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, and another from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Women’s Law Center, and Democracy Forward.

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