Colorado, other states sue over rule allowing refusal of health care over personal, moral objections

Anti-abortion activist resigns her post at the Health and Human Services Department
Posted at 3:01 PM, May 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-21 17:01:39-04

DENVER – Colorado and several other states and municipalities are suing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in an attempt to block new rules that would allow health care clinicians, businesses and individuals to refuse to provide abortions and other medical care based on personal or moral objections.

Nearly two-dozen states and municipalities filed the lawsuit Tuesday in a Manhattan federal court. The HHS rule is set to take effect in July and requires hospitals, clinics, universities and others to comply with around 25 federal laws protecting religious rights. The department has argued during rulemaking that conscientious and religious rights were not protected under prior administrations.

The lawsuit says the rule would expand the number of health care providers and employees who can refuse people services over those objections.

In joining the suit, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said the rule would conflict with several Colorado laws, including some involving women’s access to contraception and emergency coverage while Coloradans switch health care providers.

His office said Colorado could potentially lose billions in federal health care money if state laws and regulations are not changed to comply with the rule.

“A patient’s access to quality, affordable healthcare should not be driven by the personal beliefs or the discriminatory practices of one individual or organization. This refusal of care rule threatens to cause incredible mischief. It is wrong, unnecessary, and threatens to do real harm,” said Weiser. “Colorado providers should not be forced to choose between giving effective and efficient patient care or risking the loss of more than $6 billion in federal funds that they rely on to provide that care.”

The lawsuit asks a judge to find the HHS rule unconstitutional.

Joining Colorado in the suit are Connecticut; Delaware; the District of Columbia; Hawaii; Chicago; Cook County, Ill.; Illinois, Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Nevada; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York City; New York; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; Vermont; Virginia and Wisconsin.