NEW YORK — A federal judge on Wednesday struck down a new Trump administration rule that could open the way for more health care workers to refuse to participate in abortions or other procedures on moral or religious grounds.
U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer said the U.S. Health and Human Services Department overstepped its authority and went beyond existing law in issuing the rule. He also said that the measure could be costly, burdensome and damaging to emergency care and that the whole rationale for the rule was based on a lie.
He said the department’s claim that there was a significant increase in complaints about workers being forced to violate their conscience was “flatly untrue.” The HHS rule, he said, is a classic “solution in search of a problem.”
Nineteen states, the District of Columbia, three local governments, health organizations and others had sued to block the rule from taking effect Nov. 22, arguing that it would be discriminatory and would interfere with people’s access to health care.
“Today, the Trump administration has been blocked from providing legal cover for discrimination,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of Planned Parenthood.
Rosie Phillips Davis, president of the American Psychological Association, said the HHS rule “could have jeopardized the health of some of our most vulnerable populations.”
But Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, called the ruling “absurd mush” and urged the Trump administration to appeal.
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Health care institutions have long relied on “conscience provisions” first created in 1973 and amended since then that protected health care professionals from carrying out services that conflict with their religious or moral beliefs.
The new HHS rule broadens the list of health care personnel who can refuse to participate, expanding it to those who counsel, refer, train or make arrangements for a medical procedure.
It also restricts the ability of employers to inquire about employees’ objections and broadens the definition of health care entities to include pharmacists and medical laboratories.
Thus, the judge warned, a hospital or clinic receptionist who schedules appointments, an elevator operator or an ambulance driver could refuse on moral or religious grounds to do their jobs. He said the rule could force some health care employers to double or triple staff, particularly during emergencies.
Engelmayer said HHS lacked authority to create parts of the rule, including one that said a health care institution’s federal funding can be cut off for violating the rule.
He said it should be left to Congress to decide whether to change the relevant laws.
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Matthew Eledge and husband Elliot Dougherty plan to explain her out-of-the-ordinary birth to their daughter in terms she can understand: that her grandmother furnished the garden where she grew, and that her aunt, Lea Yribe, generously supplied the seeds.
One pothole did a passenger a favor when the ambulance he was in struck it, according to first responders. Gretna firefighters were taking a man suffering chest pain and a high heart rate to the hospital. While en route to Lakeside Hospital, the ambulance hit a pothole. The jolt returned the patient’s heart rate to normal.
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Lindsey and Derek Teten's triplets are one in a million. Literally. The Nebraska City couple's three daughters, born in late June 2017, are identical and were conceived without fertility treatments. The girls were the second set of spontaneous triplets born at Methodist Women's Hospital. The first set, also girls, was born in 2015.
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Kenze Messman's been diagnosed with several chronic illnesses. Sometimes her heart rate climbs, seizures send her to the floor and migraines leave her in the dark. And one of the ailments causes the 17-year-old to have allergic reactions to almost everything.
The skin on Sharan Bryson's leg was black from lack of circulation. She felt nothing but a sharp, stabbing pain. The leg was dead, and her best option was amputation. Bryson bounced back and put her hard work to the test by running a 5K.
Chase Tiemann has had numerous surgeries in his young life, including the amputation of his left arm. The Omaha boy has a condition that causes tumors — sometimes benign, sometimes cancerous — to form on his body. To boost his spirits after amputation, the Papillion Fire Department named Chase an honorary firefighter.
Wesley Woods battled heart disease for 20 years. He'd racked up nine heart attacks, multiple surgeries and one heart transplant. He was tired of hospitals. Tired of chest pain. Tired of feeling tired. Woods was lucky — he received a second transplant.
Amber Kudrna wasn't sure she'd be able to have a child of her own. After two kidney transplants, doctors gave the Omaha woman a laundry list of potential pregnancy complications. Kudrna and husband Adam weighed their options and, in September 2018, welcomed a baby boy.
Joe Nolan couldn't take his son James' pain away. But he could find a way to share it. Nolan got a tattoo that arched across his head, just like his son's scar. James was born with a handful of ailments, including one that regularly requires his skull to be reshaped.
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