Attorney General William Tong answers questions from the media.
Attorney General William Tong and the press. Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio
Attorney General William Tong answers questions from the media.
Attorney General William Tong called the federal mandate a “politically motivated attack” on the American people, particularly women and LGBTQ people. Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio
Attorney General William Tong called the federal mandate a “politically motivated attack” on the American people, particularly women and LGBTQ people. Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut is joining nearly two dozen other states in suing to block an expanded Trump administration policy that shields health care workers who oppose abortion, assisted suicide, sterilization and other procedures on religious or moral grounds.

The so-called conscience rule allows workers to refuse medical treatment to people, even during emergency situations. The mandate would dramatically expand the number of providers eligible to make refusals, including ambulance drivers, emergency room doctors, receptionists and customer service representatives at insurance companies, and establishes guidelines for punishing institutions with the loss of federal funds if they fail to honor the rights of such workers.

“This rule is yet another politically motivated attack on the health of the American people – particularly women and LGBTQ individuals who already face needless hurdles accessing health care,” state Attorney General William Tong said Tuesday. “While the Trump administration panders to an anti-choice and homophobic fringe, patients’ lives are at risk. This rule is dangerous, wrong and unlawful.”

Some organizations have already expressed fear that the order could endanger access for people seeking reproductive health care, lead to discrimination against gay or transgender patients and hinder a push to expand childhood vaccinations.

Under the rule, a hospital would be unable to inquire, prior to hiring a nurse, if he or she had objections to administering a measles vaccine, even if it was a core duty of the job, Tong said. An emergency room physician could refuse to assist a female patient with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, even if the woman’s life was in jeopardy.

The edict also would permit employers to refuse insurance coverage for procedures they consider objectionable, and allow health care workers to avoid informing patients about their medical options.

The lawsuit, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, charges that the rule violates the federal Administrative Procedures Act and the spending clause and separation of powers principles in the U.S. Constitution. Twenty-one other cities and states, including Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota and Washington D.C., are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

President Donald Trump, pictured here in a file photo, announced the expanded “conscience rule” earlier this month.
President Donald Trump, pictured here in a file photo, announced the expanded “conscience rule” earlier this month.

In Connecticut, the mandate conflicts with state statutes and regulations that require providers to offer care in emergency scenarios, to obtain informed consent from patients before providing or denying care, and to arrange for care when providers are unable to offer treatment based on personal or ethical reasons.

“We take pride in everything we’ve done to protect the rights of women and other marginalized groups, particularly when it comes to ensuring that government will not get in the way of a woman having the ability to make her own medical decisions,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement. “This rule infringes on the sovereign right of states to ensure that patients are receiving accurate and complete medical advice and care, free from any personal or religious biases.”

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Jenna CarlessoHealth Reporter

Jenna is CT Mirror’s Health Reporter, focusing on health access, affordability, quality, equity and disparities, social determinants of health, health system planning, infrastructure, processes, information systems, and other health policy. Before joining CT Mirror Jenna was a reporter at The Hartford Courant for 10 years, where she consistently won statewide and regional awards. Jenna has a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor or Arts degree in Journalism from Grand Valley State University.

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3 Comments

  1. We are in danger of having our country operate under a set of religious rules that the majority of Americans don’t subscribe to, in part because many politicians simply fear that the ire of this minority might tip close races. But let’s all remember that St. Paul, in Romans 13, told followers that they are obliged to follow the secular authorities.

  2. “An emergency room physician could refuse to assist a female patient with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, even if the woman’s life was in jeopardy.” – I’m an emergency room nurse. This is fake news. A ruptured ectopic pregnancy is a surgical emergency. The woman would be taken to the OR. I’ve worked at a Catholic hospital and we never denied treatment for someone in an emergency situation such as this.

    Ambulance drivers? Usually they prefer to be called EMTs. But anyway, what are they going to do? Refuse to do CPR on someone because he/she/??e is a “transperson.” There were plenty of people I didn’t want to transport as an EMT but we always did because we had an obligation to. Otherwise it’s abandonment.

    Let me tell you what this rule is really about. If I’m an OR nurse, I shouldn’t be forced to help someone with his “transition” from male to female by assisting to chop off his penis. I shouldn’t have to choose between my job or being fired for refusing to help with assisted suicide cases, which are illegal in Connecticut under state law (hmmm. I wonder why that is?)

    The Catholic hospital I worked at had a policy that said you didn’t have to do anything that was against your religion or your conscience. I never once saw anyone refused care.

    This article is one-sided and is FAKE NEWS.

  3. I think, if you read the legislature this objections is a double edge sword. Do you really want a doctor operating on you that disagrees with the operation morally? Shouldn’t this be decided ahead of time. When politicians in CT decided to decide what is morally correct, they took on the duty and the obligation to decide what happens, when a person disagrees with their decisions. The governor of VA and NY decided it is OK to allow a woman to decide to end the life of a baby after it is viable to survive after birth. So a doctor that is sworn to do everything in his power to save that child’s life refuses to kill this bundle of tissue because the mother decides she doesn’t want to take care of this child is being condemned because he doesn’t care about women rights. What is right? Since when is it OK, for legislators to decide what is morally OK? We have tax cheats, smokers, gun owners, criminals and felons that are part of the legislature but even though they disagree with each other they are deciding that he citizens that smoke must pay more tribute to the government. They are deciding that somebody that has a drink, now has to pay more. These are sin taxes!! So the legislators are deciding what is a religious objection to laws??? So, its OK for our legislators to call for “SIN” taxes but not for religious objections???

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