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.
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.”