A third judge has ruled against the Trump administration’s rule that would allow doctors and other medical professionals to refuse to treat patients for religious reasons, vacating the rule entirely in a summary judgment.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California joined federal judges Stanley Bastian in Spokane and Paul Engelmayer in New York, the judges who ruled earlier this month that the Department of Health and Human Services’s religious exemption rule from this past May violated numerous federal laws.
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Alsup gets right to his feelings on the HHS religious exemption rule on the second page of his decision.
“Under the new rule, to preview just one example, an ambulance driver would be free, on religious or moral grounds, to eject a patient en route to a hospital upon learning that the patient needed an emergency abortion,” he wrote. “Such harsh treatment would be blessed by the new rule.”
The rule would have allowed health care workers to refuse to treat people if doing so violated their religious beliefs, even without notifying their employers. The rule also expanded the types of workers who could claim a religious exemption to doing their jobs to include billing staff, receptionists, and emergency responders.
The rule would have cut federal health funding to employers and states that the Trump administration believed were not properly respecting health care workers’ religious freedom.
The City and County of San Francisco sued HHS over the rule change. They were represented by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D).
Alsup ruled against HHS, saying that the rule went far beyond HHS’s authority when it comes to interpreting statutory law.
“When a rule is so saturated with error, as here, there is no point in trying to sever the problematic provisions,” Alsup wrote. “The whole rule must go.”
“Today’s court ruling blocked the President’s heartless, unlawful attempt to restrict the healthcare rights of women, LGBTQ individuals, and countless others,” said Becerra in a statement. “This rule disproportionately threatens our state’s critical federal funding. We will continue to safeguard all Californians’ right to seek medical care, regardless of who they are or whom they love.”
LGBTQ organization Lambda Legal celebrated the third ruling against this HHS rule.
“That is now three judges in two weeks who have recognized the Denial of Care Rule for what it is, an egregious and unconstitutional attack on women, LGBT people and other vulnerable populations,” said Lambda Legal’s Jamie Gliksberg in a statement.
HHS has been attacking LGBTQ equality with other rule changes, including attempting to overturn Obama era guidance that banned discrimination against transgender people in the Affordable Care Act and allowing the recipients of HHS grants – including adoption and foster care agencies – to engage in religion-based discrimination.
This ruling does not address those other rules.