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Court Rejects ‘Conscience Rights’ Rule

In May 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a “Conscience Rights in Health Care Rule” permitting medical professionals to opt out of performing medical services that violated their sincerely-held religious or moral beliefs. New York Attorney General, Letitia James joined other left-wing fellow travelers in suing to block the implementation of the rule. On November 6, 2019, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer of the Southern District of New York found the rule unconstitutional and ruled that it also violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

According to Law.com, Judge Engelmayer held that HHS “lacked substantive rule-making authority to issue three of the five proposed ‘conscience’ provisions” and violated two other federal laws. 

Attorney Denise Harle of Alliance Defending Freedom was disappointed with the trial court’s ruling. Harle commented: “Medical professionals should never have to sacrifice the core convictions that led them to enter medicine, in order to serve in that very field. This HHS Conscience Rule clarifies and implements more than 30 laws protecting conscience rights in health care, including some protections that have been in effect for decades. The district court’s order vacating the rule strips the federal government of its ability to meaningfully interpret and apply these critical conscience protections ensuring that health care workers can live and work consistently with their consciences, without fear of discrimination.” (ADF filed an amicus brief arguing in support of the rule.)

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms is disappointed in this ruling and hopes that a higher court will reverse it.

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