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Trump Administration Agrees to Delay 'Conscience' Rule

Medical workers won't be able to decline controversial procedures while courts duke it out
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 30, 2019 6:07 AM CDT
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In this May 21, 2019, file photo, people rally at the state Capitol in support of abortion rights in Sacramento, Calif. The Trump administration has agreed to postpone implementing a rule allowing medical workers to decline performing abortions or other treatments on moral or religious grounds.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

(Newser) – The Trump administration has agreed to postpone implementing a rule allowing medical workers to decline performing abortions or other treatments on moral or religious grounds while the so-called "conscience" rule is challenged in a California court. The rule was supposed to take effect on July 22 but the AP reports that the US Department of Health and Human Services and its opponents in a California lawsuit mutually agreed Friday to delay a final ruling on the matter until Nov. 22. The agency called it the "most efficient way to adjudicate" the rule. A federal judge in San Francisco permitted the change on Saturday. A California lawsuit alleges that the department exceeded its authority with the rule, which President Trump announced in May.

The Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority measure would require institutions that receive federal money to certify that they comply with some 25 federal laws protecting conscience and religious rights. Most laws pertain to procedures such as abortion, sterilization, and assisted suicide. The rule is a priority for religious conservatives, but critics fear it will become a pretext for denying medical attention to LGBT people or women seeking abortions. "The Trump administration is trying to systematically limit access to critical medical care for women, the LGBTQ community, and other vulnerable patients," San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said. "Hospitals are no place to put personal beliefs above patient care." San Francisco would have faced losing about $1 billion in federal funding for health care-related programs if the rule took effect.

(Read more abortion stories.)

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