A distraught couple rushes into the doctor's office with their infant who is struggling to breathe. The receptionist looks at the couple – two moms desperate for help – and walks away without a word. It’s another 20 minutes before someone notices and helps them – but by then it could be too late.
This scenario could be repeated in thousands of hospitals, doctors’ offices and medical facilities nationwide thanks to the Denial of Care Rule that was announced by President Donald Trump and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services yesterday. Incredulously, Trump felt that the National Day of Prayer was an appropriate setting to tout how his administration was encouraging health care workers to put their personal beliefs above the medical needs of patients.
The Denial of Care Rule gives license to health care workers – doctors, surgeons, nurses, receptionists, orderlies – to deny care to patients, no matter how dire the patients’ medical needs, based on personal religious or moral objections. The rule sets no limits on what constitutes a religious or moral refusal, nor does it establish appropriate safeguards to ensure that patients who are denied care get the treatment they need.
“This is the Trump administration’s most dangerous attempt yet to weaponize religious freedom, and we won’t stand for it,” AU President and CEO Rachel Laser said yesterday. “The Denial of Care Rule condones discrimination by health care workers – our trusted medical professionals on whom we rely in our most vulnerable moments.”
With this rule, Trump is pandering to his Religious Right supporters who want to use religion to justify discrimination against women seeking reproductive health care, the LGBTQ community and religious minorities.
While these vulnerable populations are the intended targets, the Denial of Care Rule doesn’t stop there. It is so broad that everyone – including sick children, pregnant women and senior citizens – is at risk. The rule could be cited by health care workers to discriminate against patients in these and a host of other cases:
- An interracial or interfaith couple seeking fertility treatments could be turned away by a hospital receptionist who objects to their marriage.
- An assisted-living facility nurse could refuse to assist an elderly resident whose oxygen tank is malfunctioning because the patient displays the Jewish Star of David in her room.
- A pediatrician could refuse to treat a sick child because his parents are gay or transgender.
“It is un-American for the Trump administration to authorize medical professionals to circumvent our shared secular values to deny patients lifesaving medical care,” said Laser. “We are prepared to take any action possible to challenge this unconscionable rule and protect true religious freedom in America.”
Patients go to medical professionals to be healed, not to be discriminated against. We cannot allow the Trump administration to destroy the trusted relationship between patient and health care provider – or our fundamental principle of religious freedom. Our government should be protecting patients’ rights, not facilitating discrimination in the name of religion.