News (USA)

Turns out health care providers aren’t turning away people for religious objections

The Department of Health and Human Services Photo: Screenshot

This week, a Trump administration-endorsed rule that allows any person employed at a medical care provider to refuse to work with people they religiously ‘object’ to was struck down by not one, but two federal judges.

Now, it turns out that the numbers that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) were pointing to as evidence for the need of these ‘Conscience Prevention’ rule were being misrepresented by the administration.

Related: Another Republican wants to ban gender-affirming medical treatment for youth

As NPR reports, New York-based federal judge Paul Engelmayer revealed in his ruling that the numbers HHS promoted as religious objection complaints were ‘demonstrably false’.

“The judge writes that only 21 — or 6% — of the complaints that the government provided the court are even potentially related to providers’ moral or religious objections,” NPR continues. “During oral arguments, the government’s attorney conceded that the real number of complaints was ‘in that ballpark,'” but not the actual number they were previously claiming.

In his ruling, Engelmayer wrote that “this conceded fact is fatal to HHS’s stated justification for the Rule…even assuming that all 20 or 21 complaints implicated the Conscience Provisions, those 20 or 21 are a far cry from the 343 that the Rule declared represented a ‘significant increase’ in complaints.”

Now, HHS Secretary Alex Azar – too busy working with anti-LGBTQ people and organizations to keep his department in order – and HHS Office of Civil Rights director Roger Severino have two rulings against them, with another pending lawsuit from Lambda Legal and Santa Clara, California due to be heard and ruled on at some point.

NPR’s analysis of the ruling and evidence reports that over 80% of said conscience objection claims were related to providers refusing to perform vaccinations, not abortions or gender-affirming treatment as the Department heads have been claiming the rule is intended for.

Engelmeyer’s ruling is the first clarification on HHS’ claims and numbers because the department had been dodging further interrogation on the data. NPR asked the department in May about the ‘343 objections’ figure, and they refused to answer on ‘ongoing investigations’.

Following his ruling on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Stanley A. Bastian vacated the rule from his court in Spokane, Washington on Thursday. From our report following that ruling:

The [“conscience”] 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 and receptionists.

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.

…“Two judges in two days have recognized the denial of care rule for what it is, an egregious and unconstitutional attack on women, LGBT people and other vulnerable populations,” Jamie Gliksberg of Lambda Legal said in a statement.

“The denial of care rule targets some of our most marginalized and vulnerable communities and deserves to be relegated to the dustbin of history.”

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