In a recent court filing, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it has put its “conscience protection” rule on hold until November in an effort to give the administration time to deal with a lawsuit stemming from the policy. The rule was expected to take effect July 22.
The lawsuit was filed by a coalition of Democratic-led states in May stating the policy is unconstitutional in allowing healthcare providers to refuse services based on religious beliefs.
“The federal government is giving health care providers free license to openly discriminate and refuse care to patients – a gross misinterpretation of religious freedom that will have devastating consequences on communities throughout the country,” New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) said in a statement after filing the suit.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) and the city of San Francisco have also filed suits, as well as a coalition including Lambda Legal, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Center for Reproductive Rights, filing a suit with Santa Clara County. The coalition argues that the rule will result in “mass confusion among health care providers and is completely infeasible to implement,” which could lead to healthcare facilities abandoning their reproductive and LGBTQ services altogether.
HHS says no new laws would be created but it would be enforcing nearly 25 already existing federal laws that protect conscience rights.