23 local governments sue over federal rule allowing health workers to deny care

Nearly two dozen states and cities are challenging a final rule issued by President Donald Trump's administration that makes it easier for healthcare workers to refuse to provide care contradicting their religious or moral beliefs, according to The Washington Post. 

The final rule, announced May 2, is slated to take effect in July. It is a follow-up to an executive order President Trump signed in May 2017 to protect religious liberty. The rule implements enforcement of about 25 existing federal provisions that safeguard conscience rights in healthcare, federal officials said.

In a lawsuit led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, 23 states, cities and municipalities allege the final rule would undermine healthcare delivery by allowing healthcare institutions and individuals to refuse medically necessary care based on the provider's personal beliefs.

The lawsuit says the final rule "either ignores or expressly disclaims compliance with contrary federal law."

It also argues that the final rule would increase discrimination against marginalized patients, including LGBTQ patients, by allowing businesses, including employers, to refuse to provide insurance coverage for procedures they believe are objectionable, according to a news release from Ms. James' office.

The lawsuit seeks to vacate the rule.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the state of New York, New York City, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Chicago, and Cook County in Illinois.  

Earlier this month, the city of San Francisco also filed a lawsuit over the final rule.

Morgan Haefner contributed to this report. 


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