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WASHINGTON — Today, the Trump-Pence administration released a final rule that would allow health care workers to put their beliefs ahead of people’s health by refusing to provide care or information to patients. If it takes effect, this dangerous rule puts patients’ health at risk, especially for women and LGBTQ people. 

People should be able to trust that they will be able to access the best medical care possible, instead of having to worry about whether or not they will get the right care or information because of their providers’ beliefs.

The rule’s broad language will invite health care workers to put their beliefs above those seeking care and could lead to:

  • A person seeking to have their birth control or antidepressants prescriptions filled being turned away at a pharmacy because of the pharmacists' personal beliefs.
  • A pregnant woman being denied life-saving treatment for cancer because a hospital administrator personally believes the treatment could harm her pregnancy.
  • A transgender patient being denied emergency medical care or hormone therapy.

Statement from Dr. Leana Wen, President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

My primary responsibility is to my patients; when I became a doctor, I took an oath to take care of them and provide the best medical care to them. In allowing doctors, nurses, and other health care providers to deny care to patients, the Trump-Pence administration is providing legal cover for discrimination. This will widen health care disparities and worsen health outcomes for those who already face too many barriers to care. I’ve seen what happens when people can't access the care they need – their health suffers and they go without life-saving care. Too often, the cost is people’s lives. Health care must be recognized as a human right for all, and no one should be denied the right to health care based on the personal beliefs of politicians.

Some people have already been refused health care because of a provider’s personal beliefs and this rule will make existing barriers worse. 

Tamesha Means was rushed to a hospital in Michigan after her water broke at 18 weeks of pregnancy. She was sent home twice in excruciating pain despite the fact that there was no chance that her pregnancy would succeed, and that continuing the pregnancy posed significant risks to her health. The hospital had convictions against abortion and said there was nothing it could do for Tamesha; doctors neglected to tell Tamesha that terminating her pregnancy was an option and the safest course for her condition.

Instead of protecting patients, the Trump-Pence refusal rule would lead to more health care workers blocking access to care and information for women, LGBTQ people and many more. Not only does the rule expand the scope of health care refusals, it undermines longstanding protections for patients in the face of providers’ objections to providing care. In effect, the rule would put the beliefs of healthcare workers over the health and safety of patients – putting patients’ health at risk and jeopardizing access to the full array of health services offered by Planned Parenthood.

Refusals have threatened the lives of women with pregnancy complications, and could exacerbate the maternal mortality crisis among Black women. For instance, a woman in a Catholic hospital nearly died because a Catholic hospital refused to treat her miscarriage. The treating physician is reported as stating that the “woman [wa]s dying before our eyes,” but the hospital’s religious directives forbid appropriate treatment.“ Unlike most developed countries, the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is increasing — and Black women are most at risk of dying during or from childbirth.

Polls show that people in America do not believe that health care workers and institutions should be able to deny people care based on personal objections. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (62%) oppose allowing doctors or nurses to refuse to treat a woman seeking an abortion, birth control, or medical care for a miscarriage because of religious or moral beliefs. 

Under the Trump-Pence refusal rule, existing barriers to care would be exacerbated. Many women already experience barriers to accessing comprehensive reproductive health care, including an abortion. The impact of this policy will be most harmful to women of color, who are more likely to live in areas with hospitals that claim an objection to comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion and certain forms of birth control. Discrimination in health care also already prevents LGBTQ people from accessing care. Nearly one-third of transgender people surveyed said a doctor or healthcare provider refused to treat them due to their gender identity.

This is yet another part of the administration’s systematic attacks on health care and rights. For the past two years, the Trump-Pence administration has been working to infringe on our freedoms and taking away the rights of people of color, LGBTQ people, and women.  

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Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable healthcare for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.