A Christian OB-GYN says she is now worried that she would soon have no protections in the practice of her profession as she, along with the Department of Justice, fight to appeal a recent court ruling that voided the Trump administration’s “conscience rule” that would have allowed healthcare workers to abstain from participating in abortions or other medical services due to moral or religious objections.
“I cannot take the life of a child in one room and guide another child into this world in the next. Nor can I care for one elderly woman while helping another end her life. That would not only undermine my most deeply held religious beliefs and my medical judgment, but also the oath I took as a medical professional,” wrote Dr. Regina Frost in an op-ed for The Federalist Monday.
“Medical professionals have the privilege and the honor of serving those in need. For doctors like me, our job is our calling. And we do not take this calling lightly. Each and every day, we make decisions in reliance on our medical judgment and the best interest of our patients. Government bureaucrats should not insert their politics into these critical and deeply personal medical decisions,” she added.
In a 147-page decision issued in November, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan said the conscience rule that was set to go into effect on Nov. 22, was unconstitutionally coercive because it would let the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services withhold billions of dollars of funding from hospitals, clinics, universities and other healthcare providers that did not comply.
“Wherever the outermost line where persuasion gives way to coercion lies, the threat to pull all HHS funding here crosses it,” Engelmayer wrote.
The judge also asserted that rule was “arbitrary and capricious,” and conflicted with federal laws governing the obligations of employers to accommodate workers’ religious views, and hospitals to provide emergency treatment to poor patients.
The ruling came after the law firm Becket sought to intervene on behalf of Frost and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations in federal court last June, arguing that no healthcare professional should be forced to choose between violating their conscience or providing compassionate medical care. After the ruling by Engelmayer, Becket filed an appeal on behalf of Frost. The DOJ filed their notice of appeal this month.
“Supported by my colleagues at the Christian Medical and Dental Associations and by the federal government, I have asked a federal appellate court to intervene and allow me to continue to provide compassionate medical care without being forced to violate my conscience,” Frost wrote Monday.
“My faith is at the heart of who I am. It is what drives me to put the needs of women and their children first every day. It makes me a better doctor. For decades, our country has recognized that a big, diverse nation like ours can deliver high-quality medical care without making taxpayers force people of faith to violate their core beliefs. If we forget that insight, we’ll hurt both doctors and patients,” she added.
The conscience rule was voided after legal challenges were mounted by The American Civil Liberties Union and NYCLU as well as a coalition of 23 cities and states led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, and another from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Women’s Law Center, and Democracy Forward.
Responding to the Trump administration’s notice of appeal earlier this month, the ACLU called it “shameful.”
“Everyone is entitled to their religious beliefs, but religious beliefs do not include a license to discriminate, to deny essential care, or to cause harm to others,” argued Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney with the Reproductive Freedom Project at the ACLU.