Doctors in New York state have announced they will appeal a ruling from a federal judge who struck down pro-life rules implemented by President Donald Trump protecting medical professionals such as doctors or nurses from being forced to kill babies in abortion or make referrals for abortions.
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump issued new rules that further protect doctors, nurses and medical professionals who don’t want to be forced to do abortions or refer for them. Trump announced new regulations through the Department of Health and Human Services that will more effectively enforce existing federal laws that protect the conscience rights of healthcare providers.
Two federal judges invalidated the rule after pro-abortion groups filed suit, but doctors and medical professionals are fighting back.
In New York v. HHS, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is defending Dr. Regina Frost and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA) from attempts by Planned Parenthood and New York officials to force religious doctors to perform life-ending procedures that violate their consciences. The Trump administration has until Jan. 6 to join the appeal from the district court’s decision, which struck down one of the administration’s signature regulations.
“My faith is at the heart of who I am. It is what drives me to put the needs of women and their children first every day, and to serve everyone in my care with dignity and respect,” said Dr. Regina Frost. “If the government forces me to violate my faith and my medical judgment to perform abortions, I will have no choice but to leave the profession I love and the patients I serve.”
Dr. Frost is an OB-GYN and one of nearly 19,000 medical professionals in CMDA serving vulnerable populations in the United States and abroad. Across the country, CMDA members serve the homeless, prisoners living with HIV, and victims of opioid addiction, sex trafficking, and gang violence. Overseas, CMDA members serve in war zones, refugee clinics, and remote areas without quality healthcare. The lawsuit by Planned Parenthood and New York needlessly threatens the health and well-being of at-risk, underserved populations across the globe. New polling shows that healthcare professionals are committed to serving all patients but are facing increasing pressures to perform certain procedures, which they believe end life and violate their faith—and these pressures could force 91 percent of religious doctors out of the medical field.
Yesterday, Dr. Frost and CMDA appealed this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The deadline for the Trump administration to appeal the district court’s decision is Jan. 6, 2020.
“Like an ideological Grinch stealing conscience rights, Planned Parenthood is robbing not only religious doctors and nurses but also the patients that they serve,” said Daniel Blomberg, senior counsel at Becket, which is representing the doctors. “To hear Planned Parenthood tell it, one pro-life OB-GYN is one too many. That’s wrong and it’s bad for healthcare. In a big, diverse country like ours, we can ensure that everyone will receive the care they need while still respecting the consciences of religious doctors and nurses.”
Despite current law that has protected conscience rights for over 30 years, the lack of regulations resulted in confusion and a lack of awareness within the healthcare community, leaving healthcare personnel vulnerable to discrimination and forcing them to drop their specialties at a time of healthcare scarcity.
But 20 states have filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn those pro-life conscience protections for medical professionals, putting doctors and nurses at risk of being forced to do abortions or refer for them.
In early November, District Judge Paul Engelmayer invalidated the rule on multiple grounds, including a finding that it violated the Constitution’s spending clause by allowing the administration to cut off funds approved by Congress to providers who do not comply with the rule by forcing employees to perform services to which they object.
Later in November, another federal judge, located in liberal San Francisco, struck down Trump’s pro-life rule. U.S. District Judge William Alsup claimed Trump’s pro-life rule is invalid because it would let ambulance drivers refuse to take a woman for an emergency abortion — even though doctors have certified that killing a baby in an abortion is never medically necessary.
Under the new rule, Alsup wrote, “an ambulance driver would be free, on religious or moral grounds, to eject a patient en route to a hospital upon learning that the patient needed an emergency abortion.
Alsup is the third federal judge in the nation to strike down the rule. Similar decisions were issued by judges in New York City and Spokane, Wash., on Nov. 6 and 7.
Alsup ruled in three lawsuits filed by the city of San Francisco, the state of California and Santa Clara County together with a group of doctors and clinics.
If not blocked, the measure would have gone into effect on Nov. 22.
As LifeNews reported, the 440 pages of new regulations, issued by HHS Secretary Alex Azar, provide regulatory backbone to the First Amendment conscience rights of Americans working in the medical profession and will help ensure that no doctor or nurse will be be forced to violate their conscience while serving patients.
Although the Constitution and numerous federal laws provide robust protections for the conscience rights of medical professionals, these laws are being violated as doctors, nurses, and medical students are being compelled to participate in abortion. The regulations clarify what recourse is available to victims of discrimination under the law and what penalties the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Civil Rights may enforce for violations.
The Trump administration said religious freedom is at the heart of protecting those medical professionals who don’t want to be required to be involved in abortion in some capacity.
“This rule ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life,” a statement from OCR Director Roger Severino said. “Protecting conscience and religious freedom not only fosters greater diversity in health care, it’s the law.
“Laws prohibiting government funded discrimination against conscience and religious freedom will be enforced like every other civil rights law,” Severino explained.