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Federal court denies the “conscience rights” of medical professionals

Pathdoc - Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 11/08/19 - updated on 11/08/19

The rule would have made it easier for health care professionals to opt out of abortion and other procedures.

The “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care” rule, which would have protected the rights of medical professionals to avoid procedures which they find morally suspect, has been blocked by a federal judge. Now, the rule that was scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 22 has been tabled, pending appeal.

Catholic News Agency reports that the rule would work in tandem with several dozen clauses which protect the rights of healthcare workers to opt out of taking part in treatments that are counter to their religious beliefs, including abortion and gender transition procedures. These conscience clauses are already a part of the law, but the new rule would have afforded healthcare workers greater ease in utilizing them.

The 146-page decision to vacate the HHS rule came from the bench of Judge Paul Engelmayer, of the Southern District of New York, who said the rules were contrary to the U.S. Constitution. He wrote:

“The Court’s decision today leaves HHS at liberty to consider and promulgate rules governing these provisions.”

Stephanie Taub, Senior Counsel for First Liberty Institute, told CNA:

“This decision leaves health care professionals across America vulnerable to being forced to perform, facilitate, or refer for procedures that violate their conscience.”

The proposed rule was denounced by 19 states, some local governments, as well as Planned Parenthood, all of which were part of a lawsuit launched against the rule. The suit claimed that the rule would act as a “licence to discriminate,” however  Roger Severino, director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR), maintained that the rule was only meant to enforce statutes already enacted by law. He said:

“This rule ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the healthcare field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life,”

The Department of Health and Human Services is expected to appeal this decision, but as of now, the rule will not go into effect on November 22.

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