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Trump religious conscience rule draws fire
by Matt Simonette
2019-05-03

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LGBT advocates and service providers resoundingly condemned a so-called "religious conscience rule" that was announced by the Trump administration May 2 in its finalized form.

That new rule privileges the religious scruples of healthcare providers that might object to service delivery they might find objectionable, such as sharing information about abortion procedures or discussing birth control.

But LGBT advocates said that the rule, widely viewed as a concession to President Donald Trump's arch-conservative base, opens the door to legalized discrimination against LGBT persons, women and others.

"LGBTQ people, and especially transgender people, already suffer disproportionate levels of discrimination in health care settings," said Lambda Legal Interim CEO Richard Burns in a statement. "This Denial of Care Rule protects that discrimination and gives it a governmental blessing. HHS should be in the business of making sure people get the health care they need, not trying to grant health care workers and institutions permission to turn people away."

"Perhaps the most objectionable aspect of this rule is that it puts the personal beliefs of healthcare providers above their sworn duties to follow science, give all medically accurate information, and serve their patients," added Magda Houlberg, MD, Chief Clinical Officer at Howard Brown Health. "Despite the rule, medical providers who defy their oath and license should face sanctions, including the loss of license, at the state level."

John Peller, CEO and president of AIDS Foundation of Chicago, added that the rule "could allow health care providers to deny patients HIV treatment, PrEP, PEP, abortions, or care for people who are transgender. The AIDS Foundation of Chicago forcefully opposes this rule and stands with our local and national partners to support efforts to overturn it and to educate patients about their options to get care."

Edwin Yohnka, director of communications and public policy at ACLU Illinois, told Windy City Times that the rule would likely not change the Illinois laws on this matter, which are inscribed in Illinois' Healthcare Right of Conscience Act.

"There's nothing in this rule that fundamentally changes what Illinois law is, so Illinois healthcare providers will have to continue to live under the Healthcare Right of Conscience Act."

That law was revised in 2016—with language ACLU of Illinois pushed for—to mandate streamlined protocols for transfers of patients between service providers in these scenarios, to at least minimize potential harm from delays in services.

The Trump rule "should not affect healthcare in the state of Illinois overall, but as a general matter, it's really troubling to see the administration buy into the notion that the rights of the patients shouldn't be put first," Yohnka added. "When I go into a doctor's office and am sitting in an exam room, my expectation is that the highest and most important interest is my health, not the physician's religious or moral beliefs."

In a May 3 statement, Center on Halsted officials said that the rule "invites health care workers to arbitrarily decide who receives care and who does not, and threatens providers who don't comply with the loss of federal funding. This could cripple health care systems across the country.

"Religious freedom is a fundamental right in the United States, but so is the right of patients to access the health care they need. One should not come at the expense of the other."

The rule was initially announced in Jan. 2018, in tandem with the formation of the Department of Health and Human Services' Conscience and Religious Freedom Division.

Also see www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Trump-Pence-Admin-Allows-Medical-Providers-to-Deny-Lifesaving-Care-to-LGBTQ-People/65965.html .


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