U.S. Judge Voids Trump-Backed 'Conscience' Rule for Clinicians

By Reuters Staff

November 06, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge in Manhattan on Wednesday declared void a rule backed by the Trump administration that would make it easier for doctors and nurses to avoid performing abortions on religious or moral grounds.

The 147-page decision by U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer declaring the so-called "conscience" rule unconstitutional came in a lawsuit by New York and 22 other states and municipalities.

They said the rule could undermine their ability to provide effective healthcare without jeopardizing billions of dollars a year in aid, and upset legislative efforts to accommodate workers' beliefs while ensuring that hospitals, other businesses and staff treat patients effectively.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has said the rule was designed to help enforce "conscience protection" laws that have been on the books for decades.

Engelmayer said these provisions "recognize and protect undeniably important rights," but that the government's rulemaking "was sufficiently shot through with glaring legal defects," justifying that the rule be voided.

HHS and the U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to requests for comment.