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Amicus Brief on HHS Conscience Rule

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently finalized a rule that expands protections for healthcare workers who deny care based on moral or religious beliefs. We submitted an amicus brief in support of challenges to the rule filed by states, municipalities, medical organizations, and civil-rights advocates. The brief details how HHS’s analysis of the rule’s economic impacts ignores significant costs while touting entirely speculative benefits.

As we emphasized in prior comments, conscience-related refusals of healthcare, which will become more frequent under the new policy, can impose a variety of costs on patients—particularly LGBT patients, patients seeking HIV-related treatment, and women in need of reproductive health services. HHS, however, did not meaningfully asses these financial, physical, and psychological harms before issuing the rule. And while HHS concluded that any burdens would be outweighed by the rule’s benefits, the benefits identified by the Department are entirely speculative. Claims that the rule will increase the number of healthcare professionals, improve doctor-patient relationships, reduce moral distress, and promote personal freedoms are unsupported by, or even contradicted by, evidence in the record. Our brief, submitted to federal district courts in New York, California, and Washington explains how HHS’s inconsistent and opportunistic framing of the rule’s effects renders the action arbitrary and capricious.