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Reproductive health advocates are already sounding the alarm over new rules finalized Thursday by the Trump administration that would make it easier for health care workers to refuse to offer care that conflicts with their moral or religious beliefs.
Specifically, health care providers will be shielded from having to provide, offer coverage for, or refer for services like abortion and sterilization — protections that have long needed strengthening, according to conservative groups and the Department of Health and Human Services, which released the finalized rules.
In a speech from the Rose Garden, during a White House celebration of the National Day of Prayer, President Donald Trump introduced the rules. “Together we are building a culture that cherishes the dignity and worth of human life,” he told the crowd. “Every child, born and unborn, is a sacred gift from God.”
Reproductive health advocates, however, have slammed the rule, which they say will also likely imperil women’s ability to access services like birth control and emergency contraception.
“This rule is a serious threat to health care access and the health and well-being of people across the country,” Meera Shah, a New York family medicine physician and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement. “The impact will be felt most by women, people of color, and LGBTQIA patients, who are more likely to face discrimination and be refused health care like abortion and contraception.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has also hinted that he plans to sue over the rule. In a statement on Twitter, he said, ‘We won’t go back to the days when Americans seeking health care faced discrimination simply because they were female or #LGBTQ. California stands ready to take any and all legal action to prove the Trump administration wrong.”
HHS’ Office of Civil Rights will oversee the rules once they go into effect, which could take several weeks. Last year, that office opened up a new division specifically aimed at dealing with situations where health care providers’ conscience rights or religious freedoms might be violated. On Wednesday, the Sunlight Foundation noted that the Office had changed its mission statement: While it once proclaimed its commitment to “improve the health and well-being of people across the nation” that sought to make sure everybody had equal access to health care, the Office is now designated as a “law enforcement agency” that enforces civil rights laws.
Cover: FILE - In this Aug. 26, 2016, file photo, a one-month dosage of hormonal birth control pills is displayed in Sacramento, Calif. Millions of American women are receiving birth control at no cost to them through workplace health plans, the result of the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, which expanded access to contraception. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)