Author:Hayes, Liz

President Trump And His Religious Right Allies Want To Subject Your Health Care To Religious Control. Here's How AU Intends To Stop Them

A pediatrician could deny treatment to a sick child because his parents are lesbians,

A receptionist could turn away an interfaith couple seeking fertility treatment.

An ambulance driver could refuse to transport a woman with an ectopic pregnancy.

A nurse could withhold information about HIV treatment.

All of these scenarios and many more are possible under the Trump administration's new Denial of Care Rule, religious freedom and public health advocates warn.

"This is the Trump administration's most dangerous attempt yet to weaponize religious freedom, and we won't stand for it," Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser said on May 2, the day President Donald Trump announced the new rule during a National Day of Prayer ceremony at the White House.

The rule invites any health care worker--including doctors, nurses, paramedics, administrators and even clerical staff--to deny medical treatment and services to patients because of personal religious or moral beliefs, even in life-or-death situations. The vaguely worded rule sets no limits on what constitutes a religious or moral refusal, nor does it establish appropriate safeguards to ensure that patients who are denied care get the treatment they need. Medical facilities that enforce their own nondiscrimination and emergency polices rather than let employees arbitrarily deny care to patients risk losing federal funding.

"It is clear that women, LGBTQ people and religious minorities are the intended targets, but it doesn't stop there," Laser said. "The rule is so broad that everyone--including sick children, pregnant women and senior citizens--is at risk."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services formally issued the final rule, deceptively named "Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care," on May 21. The rule is scheduled to go into effect on July 22 --unless courts block it first.

If Americans United has its way, that's exactly what will happen. After the rule was officially announced, AU and its allies swung into action and promptly challenged it in two federal courts in California and Maryland.

The first case was filed on May 28 by AU, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Women's Law Center in coordination with Santa Clara County, Calif., and the law firm Mayer Brown. The second case was filed June 6 by AU, the city of Baltimore and the law firm Susman Godfrey. (Other government and health care entities also have filed related lawsuits.)

Santa Clara, a county on the outskirts of San Francisco that is home to almost two million people, operates a network of public hospitals, pharmacies, emergency services and behavioral health services, a public health department and a publicly run health insurance plan. It is...

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