AU’s legal team will make the case to a California judge today that President Donald Trump’s Denial of Care Rule is a dangerous violation of religious freedom that puts all of our lives at risk and must be stopped from going into effect next month.

AU’s attorneys, along with those from our allies at the Center for Reproductive Rights, Lambda Legal, Santa Clara County, Calif., and the Mayer Brown law firm, will go before U.S. District Judge William Alsup today to explain why the rule is unlawful, unconstitutional and should be blocked before its Nov. 22 effective date.

Trump’s Denial of Care Rule invites any health care worker – including doctors, nurses, paramedics, orderlies and receptionists – to deny care to any patient on the basis of the worker’s religious or moral beliefs. Anyone could be denied care, even in life-threatening circumstances, because of who they are, who they love, what they believe or what medical care they’re seeking. Women, LGBTQ people, patients with AIDS or HIV, and religious minorities are the intended targets of the rule, but everyone is at risk.

Our fundamental principle of religious freedom guarantees us all the right to practice our faith, or no faith at all, as long as we don’t harm others. But harming others is exactly what this rule would do. Our government should be protecting patients, not facilitating discrimination and calling it religious freedom.

That’s why AU filed two lawsuits to challenge this harmful rule; one of our cases, County of Santa Clara v. HHS, is among those being argued before Judge Alsup today. A hearing has not been scheduled in our second case, Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Azar, which we filed along with the Baltimore city solicitor.

To support our cases, about 30 medical professionals and health care administrators already have offered testimony on the myriad ways the Denial of Care Rule will exacerbate discrimination, erect more barriers for people trying to access health care, make staffing more difficult and costly for providers, undermine medical training and the medical knowledge of the next generation of health care workers, and, above all, endanger people’s health.

Officials from Santa Clara County and Baltimore explained how, for every patient who is denied care, the negative health implications ripple beyond that individual into the community at large. Examples included:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) could be spread if they go untreated or if medications that can help prevent HIV aren’t provided.
  • A rise in unintended pregnancies because of the unavailability of birth control, abortions and other reproductive care can domino into a host of socioeconomic challenges.
  • A refusal to provide immunizations can cause preventable diseases to spread through a community.

In short, the experts tasked with protecting the public health in Baltimore and Santa Clara County are worried not only about the people most likely to be denied care; they fear for the entire combined 2.5 million people who rely on the public health departments to keep them healthy.

“Refusals under such a rule would result in denials of timely care to Baltimore residents, and it is hard to overstate the harms that would follow, both for individual patients denied care and for public health in Baltimore at the population level,” said Rebecca S. Dineen, assistant commissioner for the Baltimore City Health Department Bureau of Maternal and Child Health.

The Denial of Care Rule and its threat to withhold federal funding “would compromise the Public Health Department’s ability to prevent public health emergencies and outbreaks, to prevent chronic diseases, to provide equal opportunity to vulnerable children for a healthy start and optimal health, and to foster healthy families and healthy communities,” said Sara Cody, director of Santa Clara County’s public health department.

Equally alarming is the impact the rule could have on emergency services. James Matz, battalion chief of emergency medical services for the Fire Department of Baltimore City, and Ken Miller, medical director for Santa Clara’s EMS Agency, told courts how critical care could be delayed and patients’ lives at risk if EMS employees refuse to treat people in emergencies.

“[T]he Rule will create an impossible dilemma for Baltimore EMS and will endanger the lives of the people we serve,” Matz said. “If any employee on a medic unit decided, at the scene of a call, that they could not perform their job for religious, moral, or ‘other’ reasons, the results could be catastrophic.”

We’ll continue to share the medical professionals’ concerns about the Denial of Care Rule in the coming weeks on this blog.

We’re prepared to do everything in our power to stop the rule from going into effect, but taking on the Trump administration requires significant resources. Please consider making a donation to Americans United to help our team defeat this rule and protect religious freedom and health care for all.