On May 2, the Trump administration finalized a new rule that will threaten millions of Americans’ access to health care by creating expansive rights for health care providers to discriminate and refuse to provide care. The new rule violates the basic principles that a patient’s health should always come first, and that institutions relying on taxpayer dollars should not be permitted to discriminate in the services they provide.
People For the American Way had opposed the rule, warning that it would “broaden religious exemptions in a way that threatens to lead to dangerous denials of medically necessary care” and would affect people who already face significant barriers to obtaining adequate health care:
PFAW is very concerned about the fact that every day, too many individuals, particularly women and LGBTQ people, people of color, and rural Americans, face discrimination and other barriers to accessing lifesaving health care. PFAW is concerned that the proposed regulation ignores the prevalence of discrimination and the damage it causes and will undoubtedly lead to increased discrimination and flat-out denials of care for some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Sweeping religious exemptions that obstruct access to care are a fundamental distortion of the principle of freedom of religion. Americans deserve better.
In announcing the final rule, the Department of Health and Human Services dismissed the concerns filed by hundreds of thousands of Americans after the rule was proposed in January 2018. That March, People For the American Way cohosted a rally outside HHS to deliver those comments objecting to administration plans to allowing the religious beliefs of health care providers to dictate the care available to patients.
At that rally, PFAW Senior Policy Analyst Jen Herrick explained what was at stake:
Sweeping religious exemptions like this one that obstruct access to care distort the principle of freedom of religion—twisting it from a First Amendment shield into a sword that harms others. This is not okay. HHS’s mission is to serve all Americans—not discriminate against them. We deserve better.