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Planned Parenthood spokesman: Trump’s religious refusal order an attack on health care rights

President Donald Trump during a National Day of Prayer event in the Rose Garden of the White House, Thursday, May 2, 2019, in Washington. (Evan Vucci / AP)
President Donald Trump during a National Day of Prayer event in the Rose Garden of the White House, Thursday, May 2, 2019, in Washington. (Evan Vucci / AP)

President Donald Trump’s new executive order to strengthen health care providers’ religious right to refusal is just another attack on the sexual and reproductive health of women and the LGBT community, said Planned Parenthood spokesman Paul Dillon.

This rule, which Trump announced Thursday at a White House gathering in the Rose Garden for the National Day of Prayer, would strengthen existing statutes that allow medical care professionals the right to refuse to provide certain care depending on their religion or conscience.

“People should be able to trust that they will be able to access the best medical care possible, instead of having to worry about whether or not they’ll get the care or information because of their health care workers,” Dillon said.

The rules mostly concern abortion, sterilization procedures and assisted suicide, but Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi fears it will also be weaponized to discriminate against the LGBTQ community – a fear Dillon shares.

“There has been a lot of cases of LGBTQ people being blocked from access to care, and I think not only does it expand the scope of health care refusals, it undermines really longstanding protections for patients,” Dillon said.

What effect the new rule would have on regional health care is still to be determined.

“It is too soon to understand what the president is proposing and how it will impact health care,” said Elizabeth DeRuyter, associate vice president of communication for Providence Health Care, Washington and Montana Region.

Dillon said he would not be surprised if the rule – which has yet to be published in the Federal Register – is challenged.

“This is part of the administration’s systemic attacks on health care rights, and since day one they have been working to infringe on freedoms and taking away the rights of people of color and LGBTQ people and women,” Dillon said. “They definitely have spent a lot of time fighting in court, so I would imagine that this would again face a challenge.”

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson recently challenged the Trump administration’s “gag rule,” which would prohibit a health care provider who receives Title X funding from providing patients with information about abortions. On April 25, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the rule, which was supposed to go into effect Friday.

“My legal team and I defeated multiple previous efforts to discriminate and deny Washington women access to affordable birth control and other critical health care services,” Ferguson said in a statement. “My team is reviewing our legal options regarding the rule change, and I will be making an announcement soon about our plans.”

ACLU Washington cautions that this new rule could be dangerous.

“The Trump Administration’s new rule could prevent people from accessing critical medical care and may endanger people’s lives,” said Leah Rutman, ACLU-WA Health Care & Policy Counsel. “Religious liberty is a fundamental right, but it doesn’t include the right to discriminate against or endanger others. Medical standards, not religious beliefs, should guide medical care.”

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