- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2019

A federal judge Wednesday blocked the Trump administration’s rule allowing health care workers to refuse to provide abortions and other procedures that violate their religious beliefs.

The administration’s rule was set to take effect this July, but the Health and Human Services Department delayed the effective date to Nov. 22 after the “conscience” rule, which is aimed at protecting religious or moral objections to various medical procedures, was challenged in court by more than a dozen states.

Judge Paul Engelmayer, an Obama appointee, sided against the Trump administration.

“Contrary to HHS’s depiction of it as mere housekeeping, the rule relocates the metes and bounds — the who, what, when, where, and how — of conscience protection under federal law,” the judge wrote in his 147-page opinion.

The New York judge said he was tossing out the rule in its entirety.

The decision came after 19 states, the District of Columbia, three local governments, health organizations and others sued the Department of Health and Human Services.

Plaintiffs had argued that the rule was unconstitutional because it would be discriminatory and stall access to health care for populations nationwide.

The rule emerged after President Trump in May 2017 signed an executive order instructing the attorney general to issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law.

In May, the Department of Health and Human Services published a rule applying more than 30 “conscience provisions” that must be complied with for an entity to receive federal funding.

Lawsuits challenging the rule argued that the department exceeded its authority in establishing the rule, violated the Constitution and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in creating it.

⦁ Τhis article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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