Latest Update November 6, 2019

Victory: Court Strikes Down Trump Administration’s Discriminatory Refusal of Care Rule

“This is a major legal victory and we are proud to have worked with our partners in stopping the Trump-Pence administration’s dangerous and unlawful effort to privilege certain personal beliefs over patient care.”

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The Trump-Pence administration’s Refusal of Care Rule would unlawfully authorize a wide range of health care personnel to refuse care on the basis of their personal beliefs. The Rule endangers patients, and women and LGBTQ individuals in particular, by granting health care workers—from physicians and nurses to receptionists, schedulers, EMTs, and call center staff—the right to put their personal beliefs ahead of people’s health, even in emergencies. The Rule means people could be denied access to care, and even to information about medical options, simply because a health care worker disagrees with a particular service, like birth control, abortion, or gender-affirming health services.

There is widespread opposition to the Refusal of Care Rule, especially among the medical community. The American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and American College of Emergency Physicians, among other health care experts, oppose the Rule because it interferes with a patient’s ability to access care. More than 200,000 individuals and organizations spoke out against the Rule during a public comment period.

The Rule would exacerbate the already-massive divide between who does and doesn’t have health care in this country, and further undermine the rights of people of color, LGBTQ people, and women. Some people have already been refused health care because of a provider’s personal beliefs. But instead of protecting patients, the Trump-Pence Refusal of Care Rule will make things worse for patients, especially women, LGBTQ people, and people of color. Women already experience barriers to accessing comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion. Women of color will be particularly threatened because they are more likely to live in areas with hospitals that claim an objection to comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion. All women may encounter providers who will be emboldened to refuse to provide certain forms of birth control. LGBTQ people in the U.S.—especially those who are transgender, people of color, or both—often have less access to quality health care due to the intersections of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, ableism, and other systemic barriers. As such, they are more likely to rely on federally-funded programs to access care. And nearly one-third of transgender people surveyed said a doctor or health care provider refused to treat them due to their gender identity.

With attorneys from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Women’s Law Center, and Covington & Burling LLP, we sued the Trump-Pence administration to block the Refusal of Care Rule on behalf of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, and all of Planned Parenthood’s other member affiliates and patients. The Refusal of Care Rule erects barriers to providers who want to provide the full range of reproductive health services, threatening all of Planned Parenthood’s health centers. The Rule runs counter to Planned Parenthood’s mission and would require health centers to staff workers—and even volunteers—who do not want to provide care and information.

Read more about the dangerous Refusal of Care Rule at the National Women’s Law Center’s Fact Sheet.

Robin Thurston

Deputy Legal Director

Litigating challenges to unlawful actions, abuses of power, and threats to democracy on behalf of those who are harmed.

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