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San Francisco Sues to Block Anti-LGBTQ Health Care 'Conscience Rule'

Dennis Herrera
Center: San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera

"At its core, this rule is about denying people medical care," says City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the Trump administration's new "conscience rule" that allows health care providers to opt out of procedures to which they have religious or moral objections.

The final version of the rule, announced by the administration Thursday, stands to jeopardize care for LGBTQ people, women seeking reproductive health care, and many others, according to Herrera and others who oppose it.

"At its core, this rule is about denying people medical care," Herrera said in a press release. "This administration is willing to sacrifice patients' health and lives -- particularly those of women, members of the LGBTQ community, and low-income families -- to score right-wing political points. It's reprehensible."

"People's health should not be a political football," he continued.

Herrera filed the suit Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, within hours of the final rule's release. It appears to be the first lawsuit challenging the measure.

The Department of Health and Human Services says the rule simply assures the implementation of existing conscience protections for health care workers. But the San Francisco suit contends it goes much farther.

"The rule is so broad it applies not just to doctors and nurses, but anyone even tangentially related to health care, like receptionists," Herrera's press release notes. "Schedulers, for example, could refuse to schedule appointments for LGBTQ patients or a woman seeking information about an abortion, with potentially devastating impacts on the patients' health or lives."

Herrera notes that this new regulation could potentially have employers facing a discrimination lawsuit if they do not agree with a health care worker's beliefs.

"If San Francisco sought to address the situation by transferring the staff person to another assignment so their professional role did not conflict with their personal beliefs, that could be considered 'discrimination' against the staffer under the new federal rule," he adds.

Noncompliance with the rule will result in loss of federal funding. San Francisco, for instance, risks losing nearly $1 billion a year in funding from Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal programs, according to the city attorney.

Herrera's lawsuit seeks to not only have the rule declared unconstitutional but also seeks a court order preventing the new rule from taking effect, which is set to happen within 60 days.

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