Comment on Biden Administration Partial Repeal of Unlawful Trump Rule Allowing Refusals of Health Care

January 9, 2024 2:00 pm

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced it would partially repeal a dangerous and unnecessary Trump-era rule, which numerous courts had declared unlawful, that would have allowed health care institutions and providers to deny patients treatment and information based on personal religious or moral beliefs.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union successfully challenged the Trump-era rule on behalf of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA) and Public Health Solutions (PHS). The ACLU lawsuit was one of multiple successful challenges to the rule, including a case from a coalition of 23 cities and states led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, and another from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Women’s Law Center, and Democracy Forward.

“NFPRHA commends this move by President Biden to protect access to health care for millions of people,” said Clare Coleman, President & CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association. “The Trump administration’s health care refusal rule undermined the integrity of key HHS programs, including the Title X family planning program, by prioritizing religious and moral refusals over the rights of patients to access care.”

“The Biden administration’s repeal of the most harmful aspects of former President Trump’s dangerous and unlawful refusal rule is welcome news at a critical moment for our ability to control our own bodies and futures,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “With states moving to impose extreme laws, even in life-threatening circumstances, the federal government must ensure its laws are not manipulated to deny people access to critical care. Other people’s beliefs are not license to discriminate, to deny essential care, or force people into life-threatening situations. As politicians work harder than ever before to take away our bodily autonomy, we must continue demanding bold action from our elected leaders and fighting until every person in this country is able to get the health care they need.”

The Trump-era rule would have dramatically expanded the ability of health care institutions and workers to refuse to provide medical services and information to patients based on moral or religious objection to the care — even in emergencies. It would have also forced health care centers that receive federal funds to employ individuals who refuse to perform essential job functions, without any regard for the well-being of their patients or public safety.

The refusal of care rule would have its most profound impact on access to reproductive health care, particularly for the millions of patients — who are disproportionately Black and Latine — seeking options counseling and a referral for abortion in the Title X program. The rule could have allowed a hospital receptionist to refuse to schedule an appointment for a patient seeking gender-affirming care or a paramedic to refuse to take a patient seeking an emergency abortion to the hospital.

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