The new Denial of Care Rule is yet another example of the Trump administration turning religious freedom into a government-sanctioned weapon to discriminate rather than a shield to protect. The rule invites health care workers to impose their religious beliefs on patients, arbitrarily deciding who receives care and who doesn’t.

The government should be protecting patients’ rights, not facilitating discrimination. That’s why Americans United and allied organizations filed a federal lawsuit yesterday to stop the rule from going into effect in July and putting patients’ lives at risk.

President Donald Trump  introduced the Denial of Care Rule during a National of Prayer ceremony earlier this month, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services formally issued the rule last week. It’s the latest in a series of policies and proposals introduced by the Trump administration that weaponizes religious freedom as a means to harm others

Americans United, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Lambda Legal Foundation and pro bono counsel from Mayer Brown filed this lawsuit in coordination with Santa Clara County, Calif. We represent several health care providers across the country that primarily serve people seeking reproductive health care, LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities. The care these organizations provide and their patients are threatened by the Denial of Care Rule.   

There are many reasons why this rule is a threat to Americans’ health care. Here are four:

The rule invites health care workers to impose their religion on others: Under this rule, health care workers could arbitrarily decide who does and who does not get care. Just about anyone connected with the health care industry, from doctors and nurses to ambulance drivers and orderlies, could believe they have the right to deny care. There are virtually no limits as to what constitutes a religious or moral refusal. The rule is clearly designed to empower an extremely broad number of individuals and entities to impose their religious views on America’s patients.

The rule sows confusion and could debilitate health care systems across the country: The rule threatens health care providers that don’t comply with the loss of federal funding. It is intentionally confusing and unworkable, intimidating health care facilities into doing away with reproductive, LGBTQ and other services, leaving millions without access to critical health care.

The rule puts marginalized communities at risk: The reality is that women, LGBTQ people, religious minorities, racial minorities, those living with HIV and poor people already too often face barriers when seeking health care. This rule empowers health care workers to feel that they have a government-sponsored license to deny even more care to these patients and extend that discrimination to everyone.

The rule distorts the true meaning of health care and religious freedom: Americans trust health care workers to make sound lifesaving decisions based on medical need, not to impose their religious beliefs on us. We trust members of the health care industry with our intimate information. This rule allows health care workers to use that private information against us. The rule is yet another attempt by Trump to foster discrimination and curry favor with the administration’s Religious Right allies. And because there are already policies in place to respect providers’ freedom of conscience, while still ensuring that patients have access to care, the rule does nothing to promote actual religious freedom and, in fact, undermines that principle.

You can learn more about this important lawsuit here. But we’re fighting not only the Trump administration with its vast legal resources, but also a July 22 deadline when the rule is scheduled to go into effect. Your support makes it possible for Americans United to sponsor cases like this and protect true religious freedom.