Americans United and allies on March 27 delivered more than 200,000 comments from people objecting to the Trump-Pence administration’s proposal to create a sweeping religious exemption to allow health care providers to refuse to provide medical care.
The potential rule would allow doctors, nurses, hospitals, insurance companies and even officer support staff such as appointment schedulers to use religion to justify denying health care to people in need. Patients could even be denied life-saving care.
The regulation would especially threaten women and the LGBTQ community. For example, providers could withhold potential medical treatments from a woman who is miscarrying or a transgender patient in need of critical care.
Americans United urged the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to withdraw the proposed rule.
“Religious freedom is fundamental, but so is the right to get the health care you need,” AU said in a letter signed by Legislative Director Maggie Garrett and Assistant Legislative Director Dena Sher. “The government should never allow the religious beliefs of a health care provider to come before what is best for the patient. A patient’s health care should always come first.”
Americans United members and supporters, including medical professionals and faith leaders, also answered the call to submit comments objecting to the proposal.
“I worked in medicine for 20 years,” said Dayle Severns from Concord, Va. “We didn’t judge patients on any criteria other than what help they needed. That is all that a patient should ever be judged by.”
“As an emergency physician who provided care 24/7 to all comers for 30 years, I feel that any rule that would allow providers to pick and choose what care to provide and to whom to provide it based on their personal religious beliefs is morally and ethically reprehensible and bad medicine,” said Fred Leonard of Prescott, Ariz.
AU staff members joined allies from the National Women’s Law Center, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Center for Transgender Equality and other organizations for a #PutPatientsFirst rally at the HHS headquarters in Washington, D.C., on March 27 to announce the overwhelming response from people objecting to the proposal.
AU Youth Outreach Coordinator Erin Hagen spoke at the rally.
“Freedom of religion is one of our nation’s most fundamental values,” Hagen said. “That’s why it’s already protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. But religious freedom does not justify this rule because this rule puts the religious beliefs of a health care provider before what’s best for patients.
“We must be clear,” Hagen continued. “This dangerous proposal is part of a larger agenda by the Trump administration to allow people to use religion to discriminate. President Trump is letting a handful of religious, fundamentalist leaders set policy because they are the core of his remaining supporters. This agenda threatens the rights of countless Americans, including LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities and non-theists.”