Trump Administration Delays Religious Freedom Health Care Rule

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The Trump administration has backed off on a rule that would allow health care workers to refuse medical services that violate their religious beliefs.

The Justice Department on Friday agreed to delay implementation of the rule until at least Nov. 22.

“Faced with the law, the Trump administration blinked,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement late Friday. “We have won this battle — and it was an important one — but the fight is not over. The Trump administration is trying to systematically limit access to critical medical care for women, the LGBTQ community, and other vulnerable patients. We’re not going to let that happen. We will continue to stand up for what’s right.”

The administration’s “conscience rule” was created by the civil rights wing of the Department of Health and Human Services in 2018 to protect the religious rights of health care providers worried that their jobs would force them to violate their faith.

It faced immediate backlash in the form of three federal lawsuits brought by 15 states in addition to  California, City and County of San Francisco and the County of Santa Clara, which sought to block the rule from taking effect on July 22.

With Friday’s order, signed by U.S. District Judge William Alsup, the cities and states appear to have succeeded.

“These rulings critically stop President Trump’s illegal money grab to divert $2.5 billion of unauthorized funding for his pet project,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “All President Trump has succeeded in building is a constitutional crisis, threatening immediate harm to our state. President Trump said he didn’t have to do this and that he would be unsuccessful in court. Today we proved that statement true.”

Under the rule, health care providers from doctors to schedulers would be able to refuse to provide birth control, abortions, sterilization or assisted suicide if they have a religious or moral objection.

“Hospitals are no place to put personal beliefs above patient care,” Herrera said Friday. “Refusing treatment to people because of who they are, or who they love, should not leave anyone with a clear conscience.”

Herrera said San Francisco could stand to lose almost $1 billion in federal funding if it fails to comply.

In court documents, the government said it does not concede that the city and state are likely to win their case, but “HHS stipulates to this delay because it is the most efficient way to adjudicate the final rule on the merits.”

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