Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Two More Suits Challenge Expanded Religious Accommodation For Health Care Providers

Suit was filed yesterday in New York federal district court challenging rules recently adopted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (see prior posting) expanding the protection of conscience rights for health care providers.  The 63-page complaint (full text) in National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association v. Azar, (SD NY, filed 6/11/2019) alleges that:
The Final Rule encourages and authorizes discrimination by unlawfully granting a wide swath of institutions and individuals broad new rights to refuse to provide health care services and information.
The complaint elaborates:
The Rule will exacerbate existing systemic barriers by endangering Plaintiffs’ members’ ability to provide care to already underserved populations. For example:
  • By requiring the absolute accommodation of an employee’s refusal to provide certain information and services, the Final Rule could at any time force Plaintiffs to reduce the availability or scope of services they provide or even eliminate them entirely, particularly in small locations that may rely on a single staff member to perform multiple job functions.
  • By prohibiting Plaintiffs from even asking job applicants whether they are willing to perform basic job requirements, and because the Final Rule does not require employees who intend to refuse to so notify their employers or their patients, neither Plaintiffs nor their patients may be aware when a staff member is denying a patient access to needed care or information;
  • By prohibiting those of Plaintiff NFPRHA’s members who are state and local governmental Title X grantees from requiring sub-recipients to comply with the statutory and regulatory requirements of Title X’s abortion counseling and referral, the Final Rule will systematically undermine the integrity of the Title X program, further jeopardizing the ability of Plaintiffs’ patients to access necessary health care and make voluntary, informed decisions about their reproductive health.
The ACLU issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.

Separately, Planned Parenthood filed a similar lawsuit. (Full text of complaint in Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. v. Azar, (SD NY, filed 6/11/2019). Courthouse News Service reports on this lawsuit.

A similar challenge to the new Rule was filed last month by a number of states and cities. (See prior posting.)