News & Politics

Federal Judge Voids 'Conscience Rule' on Abortion for Health Care Workers

In the end, we’ll all be forced to care — whether we want to or not.

A rule that enabled doctors and nurses to refuse to perform abortions for religious reasons was tossed out by a federal judge because it was too “coercive.”

“Wherever the outermost line where persuasion gives way to coercion lies, the threat to pull all HHS funding here crosses it,” Judge Paul Engelmayer wrote in a 147-page decision.

The judge’s notion of “coercion” had to do with the prospect of HHS withholding funding for not adopting the rule. So a rule that makes performing abortion voluntary has been struck down for being coercive. That may be a new level of ridiculousness by the federal courts.


The judge also said the rule conflicted with federal laws governing the obligations of employers to accommodate workers’ religious objections, and hospitals to provide emergency treatment to patients who could not afford it.

Engelmayer’s decision covered a lawsuit by New York state and 22 other states and municipalities, as well as two lawsuits by Planned Parenthood and other healthcare providers.

The judge had a lot more to say.


Judge Paul Engelmayer ruled Wednesday that the Department of Health and Human Services, which issued the regulation earlier this year, exceeded its authority and “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in promoting it.

The department’s violations of federal law, according to the judge’s opinion, were “numerous, fundamental, and far-reaching” — and he vacated the rule entirely, just over two weeks before it was set to take effect on Nov. 22.

The Trump administration had asserted that the rule would give health care providers the freedom to opt out of providing care or services — such as abortions — that violate their conscience. Employers that did not comply with the rule could have had their federal funding withdrawn.

What happens now? Presumably, a doctor or another health care worker could be fired for not performing an abortion or transgender surgery. In this construct, doctors are not individual living, human, thinking beings; they are tools of the state and the state’s notions of morality. And if the state says suck that baby out, they have to suck the baby out, regardless of their religious or moral objections. Otherwise, it’s “discrimination” don’t ya know.

The Constitution is becoming a trap where a judge can selectively interpret and subvert its meaning. All federal rules are “coercive.” That’s why they’re the law. The Transportation Department used to withhold funds from states that didn’t raise their drinking age to 21.

A judge invokes “discrimination,” which apparently trumps religious liberty, and workers are coerced into performing abortions. I fear that this is the future of the republic as some “rights” will supersede others, leading to an erosion of individual liberties.

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