VICTORY! Third Judge Smacks Down Trump Administration's "Denial Of Care" Rule

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November 20, 2019

Today, U. S. District Court for the Northern District of California William Alsup struck down the Denial of Care Rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), becoming the third judge in two weeks to vacate the rule, recognizing the rule’s discriminatory and unconstitutional scope.

Judge Alsup’s ruling came in the lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the County of Santa Clara. Similar rulings have already been issued by the judges for the Eastern District of Washington and Southern District of New York.

Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Jamie Gliksberg issued the following statement:

“That is now three judges in two weeks who have recognized the Denial of Care Rule for what it is, an egregious and unconstitutional attack on women, LGBT people and other vulnerable populations. In his ruling, Judge Alsup was blistering in his assessment of the Denial of Care Rule, determining that the rule is ‘saturated with error.’

"Judge Alsup joins Judge Stanley A. Bastian from the Eastern District of Washington and Judge Paul A. Engelmayer of the Southern District of New York in vacating this discriminatory and harmful rule, and in likely saving countless lives. The Denial of Care Rule targets some of our most marginalized and vulnerable communities and deserves to be relegated to the dustbin of history.”

From Judge Alsup’s ruling:

“When a rule is so saturated with error, as here, there is no point in trying to sever the problematic provisions. The whole rule must go.”

The Denial of Care Rule, which was issued in May by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, invites any health care worker – including doctors, nurses, EMTs, administrators, janitors and clerical staff – to deny medical treatment, information and services to patients because of personal religious or moral beliefs. Health care facilities risk losing essential federal funding if they do not grant employees carte blanche to deny services.

Because the rule is confusing and infeasible to implement, many health care facilities will likely be forced to eliminate services such as reproductive and LGBTQ care, leaving millions across the United States without access to critical health care.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California heard arguments in County of Santa Clara v. HHS on October 30. On November 6, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a ruling in State of New York v. HHS completely vacating the Denial of Care Rule. Read the opinion and order here.

The next day, November 8, Judge Bastian ruled from the bench in State of Washington v. Azar, agreeing with the ruling out of New York. A written opinion is forthcoming.

The plaintiffs in Lambda Legal’s lawsuit include the County of Santa Clara, which runs an extensive health and hospital system that serves as a safety-net provider for the county’s 1.9 million residents; the health providers Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, Pa., Center on Halsted in Chicago, Hartford GYN in Connecticut, Los Angeles LGBT Center, Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia, Trust Women Seattle and Whitman-Walker Health in Washington, D.C.; the associations AGLP, GLMA and Medical Students for Choice; and five doctors.