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Second Court Tosses Out Trump Health-Worker Religious Rule

Nov. 7, 2019, 10:07 PM

A second court in two days has tossed out the Trump administration’s rule that allows health-care workers to deny care based on their religious and moral beliefs.

Judge Stanley A. Bastian of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington vacated the rule from the bench Nov. 7, court staff told Bloomberg Law. An opinion will be coming in the next few days, the staff member said.

The court granted summary judgment to the state of Washington, which was challenging the rule.

“This rule would have disproportionately harmed rural and working poor Washington families, who have no alternatives to their local health care providers, as well as LGBTQ individuals, who already face discrimination when they seek medical care,” said Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a statement.

A day earlier the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York also vacated the rule, saying the Health and Human Services Department acted outside its rulemaking authority when it adopted the conscience protection rule and that the rule is contrary to the law.

The Trump administration has said the rule is a necessary part of its effort to enforce 25 conscience provisions scattered throughout various laws.

Opponents say it would give the HHS new power under those statutes to deny coverage to certain populations, like women seeking abortions and LGBT individuals.

The rule was to take effect Nov. 22.

A federal district court in California recently heard oral argument on the same issue and is expected to issue a decision soon.

The Washington Attorney General’s Office represented the state. The Department of Justice represented the HHS.

The case is Wash. v. Azar, E.D. Wash., No. 2:19-cv-00183, Ruling 11/7/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shira Stein in Washington at sstein@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com; Brent Bierman at bbierman@bloomberglaw.com