Metro Weekly

California sues Trump administration over health care worker exemption

AG Xavier Becerra claims allowing exemption disproportionately harms Californians, including LGBTQ people

California AG Xavier Becerra – Photo: Office of the California Attorney General.

The state of California is suing the Trump administration over its recently issued rule allowing health care workers to refuse to perform medical procedures or prescribe treatments to patients based on the provider’s personal religious or moral objections.

President Trump announced the final rule on the National Day of Prayer as an attempt to appeal to social conservatives who have long demanded religious exemptions for medical providers who object to performing abortions or gender confirmation surgeries. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the rule is needed to ensure health care workers with sincerely-held religious beliefs can keep their jobs without being coerced by their superiors.

But California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) has sued the administration, arguing that it disproportionately harms California, which is mentioned 44 times in the rule. The lawsuit claims that the exemption violates the Administrative Procedure Act, the Spending Clause, and the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution; impedes access to basic health care, including reproductive and emergency care; ; threatens billions of dollars in federal funding for California’s public health care programs; and discriminates against vulnerable populations, including women and LGBTQ individuals.

“Allowing such denial of service would be contrary to federal and state laws enacted to ensure patient safety and nondiscriminatory access to care, and contrary to medical ethics,” the lawsuit reads. “Further, the Rule will create rampant confusion about basic patient rights and federally entitled healthcare services, such as Medicaid and Medicare, while discouraging providers from offering safe, legal medical care to their patients.”

The state of California also alleges that the Trump administration failed to consider the impact that the rule would have on patients.

“A war is being waged on access to healthcare across our country from Alabama to Texas to Washington D.C., where once again the President and Vice President are issuing illegal rules that use healthcare as a political weapon while risking American lives,” Becerra said in a statement. “The refusal rule harms women, LGBTQ individuals, and threatens our healthcare providers.”

Last year, Becerra submitted a comment letter to HHS arguing that the proposed rule would harm Californians, exceeds the president’s legal authority, and undermines various federal laws, including the Affordable Care Act, Title X, Title VII, and the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. He subsequently submitted a FOIA request seeking information about the proposed rule and how it came to be crafted. The Trump administration has not yet provide a response to that request.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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