Biden to Pull Rule Allowing Health Care Workers to Refrain from Abortions, Sex Changes

The Biden administration will withdraw a Trump administration rule that would have allowed any health care worker to refuse to participate in abortions, sterilizations, or sex-change operations for reasons of conscience.

Health care workers will still be allowed to opt out of abortions and sterilizations unless doing so would cause “undue hardship to their employer,” the San Francisco Chronicle notes, under an existing 1973 federal law.

And a recent judicial order barring a Biden administration mandate on transgender surgeries in a Catholic hospital remains in effect (even though the judge confined the effect of the ruling to the parties in the case).

However, they would not be able to opt out at will, and might not be able to apply that law to so-called “gender-affirming care,” the administration’s euphemism for surgery or drugs that mimic opposite sex characteristics and that fall short of formal sterilization (such as the removal of breasts as a treatment of gender dysphoria).

The Chronicle reported:

The rule was scheduled to take effect in November 2019 but was declared to be in violation of federal law by three federal judges, including U.S. District Judge William Alsup of San Francisco. The suits were filed by state and local governments, including San Francisco and the state of California, and by civil rights organizations.

The proposed rule went well beyond a 1973 federal law, still in effect, that allows physicians and others directly involved in health care to refuse to take part in abortions or sterilizations unless their refusal would cause undue hardship to their employer. The rule announced by President Trump’s administration would have allowed anyone in the health system to withhold their service and would have applied to gender-affirming care as well as abortions and sterilizations.

Employers who objected to Trump’s rule, including entire states, could have lost their federal funding. As a result, reproductive-rights advocates said, health care organizations receiving federal funds would have been required to employ workers who were unwilling to perform their job duties in some circumstances.

The Trump-era rule, as described in 2018 in the Federal Register, aimed ” to ensure vigorous enforcement of Federal conscience and anti-discrimination laws” within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): “The final rule also encourages the recipients of HHS funds to provide notice to individuals and entities about their right to be free from coercion or discrimination on account of religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

Earlier this year, California became the first “sanctuary state” for children to obtain “gender-affirming” drugs or surgery. Under the Biden administration policy, health care workers would not be able to opt out of such care.