The Trump administration's dangerous "Denial of Care Rule"--a reckless provision that invites any health care worker, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, orderlies and receptionists, to deny care to any patient on the basis of the worker's religious or moral beliefs--is on life support after a trio of rulings against it last month, including one in legal action sponsored by Americans United and its allies.
The first blow came Nov. 6 when the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York struck down the rule, invalidating it nationwide. In his decision in State of New York v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer did not rule on church-state grounds but held that HHS lacks the authority to make a rule of this scope.
Asserting that the Department of Health and Human Services's approach "was sufficiently shot through with glaring legal defects," Engelmayer voided the entire rule nationwide. (The rule had been scheduled to go into effect Nov. 22.)
Englemayer also stated that HHS's justification for the rule--that many health care workers had demanded it because they felt that their religious-freedom rights were being violated--was false. Officials at HHS had asserted that conscience complaints filed by health care workers skyrocketed from one complaint to 343 over a 12-month period. That number turned out to be false.
The Washington Post noted that officials at HHS apparently arrived at this figure by including complaints about vaccinations, which would not have even been affected by the Denial of Care Rule. In fact, 80 percent of the complaints were about vaccinations. Additionally, some complaints were from parents concerning treatment for their children; they weren't from health care workers at all.
The real figure was much lower. Engelmayer noted that only 21 of the complaints that HHS provided the court have even a tangential relationship to religious or moral objections. During oral arguments in the case, a government lawyer was forced to concede this was true, calling the figure "in that ballpark."
Americans United hailed the decision.
"We're thankful Judge Engelmayer blocked President Trump's dangerous Denial of Care Rule from going into effect," asserted Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United, in a statement to the media. "The Denial of Care Rule is a stark violation of religious freedom--no patient should be denied medical treatment because of someone else's...