Court blocks Trump’s new rule that healthcare workers can refuse to treat LGBT people

A federal judge has blocked the Donald Trump administration’s attempt to introduce a rule that would allow healthcare workers to refuse to treat LGBT+ people.

Known as the ‘conscience rule’, it would also apply to abortions, contraception, gender confirmation surgery, or any other type of services they might disagree with ‘on moral or religious grounds’.

The rule was scrapped by US District Judge Paul A Engelmayer just over two weeks before it was due to take effect, on the basis that it conflicts with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This is the same legislation that is currently at the centre of a Supreme Court battle on LGBT+ rights in the workplace.

In the 147-page ruling Englemayer sided with 26 plaintiff states, municipalities, providers and advocacy groups including Planned Parenthood, agreeing that such a rule was unconstitutional and discriminatory.

Donald Trump and the White House had claimed the religious protections were introduced following a “significant increase” in complaints from hospital workers who were being forced to violate their faith by treating LGBT+ patients – but the judge ruled that this was “factually untrue”.

Protesters in front of the US Supreme Court last month as arguments were heard on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects LGBT+ people in the workforce. (Mark Wilson/Getty)

Engelmayer estimated that just six percent of the cases cited – less than two dozen – related to actual ‘conscience claims’.

He also said that the US Health and Human Services Department’s violations of federal law were “numerous, fundamental, and far-reaching”, adding that the department had overstepped its authority and “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in issuing the law in the first place.

“Healthcare is a basic right that should never be subject to political games,” said New York attorney general Tish James, who brought the case. “Once again, the courts have blocked the Trump administration from implementing a discriminatory rule that would only hurt Americans.”

Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of Planned Parenthood, also celebrated the victory. “Today, the Trump administration has been blocked from providing legal cover for discrimination,” she said.

“As the federal district court made clear, the administration acted outside its authority and made false claims to try to justify this rule.”

Trump’s ‘conscience law’ would mean that doctors could legally refuse services to LGBT+ patients (pxhere)

A spokesperson for the White House told Reuters that HHS and the Department of Justice are currently reviewing the verdict to determine how to proceed. It’s thought that the Trump administration is likely to appeal the ruling.

“This decision leaves healthcare professionals across America vulnerable to being forced to perform, facilitate or refer for procedures that violate their conscience,” said Stephanie Taub, senior counsel at the First Liberty Institute, which backed the ‘conscience rule’.

“The Trump administration’s HHS protections would ensure that healthcare professionals are free to work consistent with their religious beliefs while providing the best care to their patients.”