A federal judge in New York has ruled
against President Donald Trump's “conscience rule” for healthcare
providers criticized as allowing discrimination based on sexual
orientation and gender identity.
U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer
said that the rule includes “numerous, fundamental and far
reaching” violations of the Administrative Procedures Act.
“The Court accordingly vacates HHS's
2019 Rule in its entirety,” Engelmayer wrote in his 147-page
Engelmayer also concluded that the
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) falsified its reasons
for creating the rule.
The government said that the rule was
needed because of a “significant increase” in complaints from
healthcare providers unsure of the rules for religious exemptions.
HHS said that complaints increased from single digits in one year to
358 between November 2016 and the end of fiscal year 2018.
“Indeed the Court has found that
HHS's stated justification for undertaking rulemaking in the first
place – a purported 'significant increase' in civilian complaints
relating to the Conscience Provisions – was factually untrue,”
the judge wrote. “Only around 20 complaints implicate any of the
Trump announced the rule during a
National Day of Prayer speech he delivered in the White House Rose
Garden. A final version was announced in May.
Critics of the rule say it protects
healthcare workers who refuse to perform abortions based on their
religious beliefs and allows such providers to discriminate against
the LGBT community.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, called the rule an “attack”
on LGBT people.
“The Trump-Pence administration’s
latest attack threatens LGBTQ people by permitting medical providers
to deny critical care based on personal beliefs,” HRC Government
Affairs Director David Stacy said in a statement. “The
administration’s decision puts LGBTQ people at greater risk of
being denied necessary and appropriate health care solely based on
their sexual orientation or gender identity. Everyone deserves access
to medically necessary care and should never be turned away because
of who they are or who they love.”
Engelmayer is the first judge to rule
on the “conscience rule.” At least eight cases challenging the
rule are wending their way through the courts.
HHS said that it was reviewing the