UNCARING: Will You Be Denied Medical Assistance Because Of Someone Else's Religion?

Author:Hayes, Liz

Dozens of health care professionals have spelled out in grim detail the devastating consequences the Trump administration's proposed Denial of Care Rule could have for patients, health care providers and the public health if federal judges allow the directive to go into effect on Nov. 22.

The Denial of Care Rule, issued by President Donald Trump's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in May, invites virtually 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. Anyone could be denied care, even in life-threatening circumstances, because of who they are or what medical care they're seeking; women, LGBTQ people, patients with AIDS or HIV, and religious minorities are particularly at risk.

Threatened with the loss of crucial federal funding if they don't comply with the rule's confusing and unworkable requirements, health care facilities could feel forced to stop providing certain services like reproductive and LGBTQ-focused care--which is the ultimate goal of Trump and his base of religious extremists. This rule could debilitate health systems across the country, leaving millions without access to critical health care.

That's why several lawsuits were filed shortly after the final rule was issued, including two challenges brought by Americans United and allies. One of AU's cases was filed in California with the Center for Reproductive Rights and Lambda Legal in coordination with Santa Clara County, Calif., which runs an extensive public health and hospital system that serves as a safety-net provider for the county's 1.9 million Bay Area residents.

Other plaintiffs in the case, County of Santa Clara v. HHS, include providers focused on reproductive and LGBTQ care in Chicago; Hartford, Conn.; Los Angeles; Seattle; Washington, D.C.; and Allentown and Philadelphia, Pa. Also joining as plaintiffs are five doctors and the medical associations The Association of LGBTQ Psychiatrists (AGLP), Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality (GLMA) and Medical Students for Choice.

The second case was filed in conjunction with the Baltimore city solicitor on behalf of the city's mayor and council. The Baltimore City Health Department has strived to ensure that vulnerable and historically marginalized populations can seek medical care without fear of stigmatization by eradicating the very type of discrimination in health care that the Denial of Care Rule encourages. The city argues in the lawsuit Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Azar that the rule would endanger not only the health of vulnerable groups, but also the public health for the entire city population of about 620,000.

In the lawsuits, AU and allies argue that the rule is Unlawful because HHS arbitrarily and capriciously failed to consider the potential harm to patients and health care systems. They also argue that the rule is unconstitutional in part because it favors specific religious beliefs in violation of the First Amendment.

In response to the lawsuits, HHS agreed to delay implementation of the Denial of Care Rule until Nov. 22. Federal judges in California and New York heard...

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