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This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued its final rule which strictly limits how health care refusal laws are implemented and requires providers to inform patients of these laws and their rights. Health care refusal laws, or "conscience laws,” govern when and how health care entities can refuse to provide treatment based on their personal or religious beliefs.
In 2019, the Trump administration rewrote these regulations in a way that made it much easier for health care providers to discriminate against people and to disregard the science when it came to care. While these laws were challenged in federal court and never implemented, leaving these regulations in limbo put thousands of underserved communities at risk and created a landscape where health care inequities could more easily take root. Today, the Biden administration largely rescinded the Trump era rule, limiting the potential for illegal discrimination and advancing health care equity by clearly outlining how these conscience laws will be implemented and enforced going forward.
“The National Women’s Health Network thanks the Biden-Harris Administration for largely rescinding this unjust and dangerous rule and for your commitment to health equity,” said Denise Hyater-Lindenmuth, Executive Director of the National Women’s Health Network. “The opportunity to seek health care in safe, unbiased health systems is a civil right regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, English language proficiency, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex characteristics, and disability. Anything less is barbaric. Lifting this rule may help millions of Black women and birthing people who especially face health care biases (unconscious or otherwise) seek recourse under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).”
The National Women's Health Network, a 501c3 not for profit, represents the health interests of women across the life continuum with an intersectional focus on sexual and reproductive health, maternal health and the health and well-being of aging women. We work to improve women’s health outcomes through state and federal advocacy, consumer health education, and grassroots technical assistance initiatives. For more information about or programs, services and initiatives visit www.nwhn.org.