NEW YORK (Reuters) – Planned Parenthood and other nonprofits offering family planning services sued the Trump administration on Tuesday to block a new federal rule letting healthcare workers refuse abortions and other services because of religious or moral objections.
FILE PHOTO – Planned Parenthood’s employees look on as anti-abortion rights advocates hold a rally in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant
The two lawsuits filed in Manhattan federal court said enforcing the “conscience” rule would encourage discrimination against women, minorities, the poor, the uninsured, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people by curbing access to legal healthcare procedures, including life-saving treatments.
They also said the rule, scheduled to take effect on July 22, would impose heavy costs on healthcare providers dependent on federal funding, which they could lose by refusing to comply.
The plaintiffs also include Planned Parenthood of Northern New England Inc, the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association and Public Health Solutions Inc. The American Civil Liberties Union represents the latter two nonprofits.
“Trust is the cornerstone of the physician-patient relationship,” Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement. “No one should have to worry if they will get the right care or information because of their providers’ personal beliefs.”
The lawsuits escalate the legal battles over a rule announced on May 2 by Republican President Donald Trump, in a Rose Garden speech marking the National Day of Prayer.
They were filed three weeks after California, New York, New York City, Chicago and 20 other mostly Democratic-controlled or Democratic-leaning states and municipalities sued the government over the rule. San Francisco filed its own lawsuit on May 2.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which issued the rule, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
HHS has pledged to defend the rule, saying it protected the rights of workers who might oppose particular procedures, also such as sterilizations and assisted suicides.
According to the agency, the rule would require compliance with roughly 25 federal laws protecting conscience and religious rights, including some laws dating back decades.
Trump has made expanding religious liberty a priority.
The cases are Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc et al v Azar et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-05433; and National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association et al v Azar et al in the same court, No. 19-05435.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown