Nessel joins multistate coalition in support of rule blocking discrimination in access to healthcare

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a coalition of 22 states in support of a proposed federal rule that protects access to healthcare for all individuals. The proposed rule rescinds portions of a 2019 Trump Administration rule that allowed any individual or entity — from doctors to front-desk receptionists — to deny healthcare based on?religious or moral objections, even in emergency situations.

It also sought to coerce compliance from the states by threatening to rescind federal funding. In the comment letter, the coalition of attorneys general wrote that the Biden Administration’s Proposed Rule eliminates the problematic and illegal aspects of the 2019 Rule and better safeguards patients, including those from the LGBTQ community and those seeking abortions, from being denied access to critical or lifesaving health services.

"The 2019 rule had the potential to place the health of millions in jeopardy," Nessel said. "Thankfully, multiple court injunctions kept that rule from taking effect. A rule change is now overdue. We need to restore the balance between a person's right to object based on conscience and a patient's right to access basic healthcare. I stand firmly with my colleagues in supporting the new proposed rule, which
will assure that everyone has access to the healthcare they need."

The 2019 Trump-era Rule, also known as the “Healthcare Refusal Rule," allowed virtually anyone working in healthcare the ability to broadly refuse to provide care based on religious or moral beliefs. For example, if an ambulance driver learned a patient experiencing an ectopic pregnancy was seeking care that they were opposed to, the driver could decline to transport the patient, even if doing so would risk the patient’s life. The 2019 Rule also threatened to cut off hundreds of billions of dollars in essential federal healthcare funding to the states for a single breach of the rule - in essence forcing a “gun to the head” of state and local governments that depend on federal funds - in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The 2019 Healthcare Refusal Rule was successfully blocked in multiple lawsuits nationwide. In January this year, the Biden Administration announced a new proposed rule that seeks to rescind portions of the 2019 Rule.

In the comment letter, the 22 attorneys general expressed their support of the new proposed rule, arguing that:

• It protects vulnerable populations, including LGBTQ communities and people seeking reproductive care, by revoking the most dangerous parts of the 2019 Rule that opened them up to discrimination and threatened to exacerbate already existing inequities in healthcare;

• It strikes a better balance between safeguarding conscience rights of individual medical providers and protecting access to healthcare for patients;

• It corrects portions of the 2019 Rule that are redundant, confusing, or have been deemed illegal by courts in litigation brought by the states, as well as local governments and healthcare providers; and

• It protects billions of dollars in federal funding for states’ public healthcare and other federally funded programs that provide crucial health, education, and labor services.

In filing the comment letter, Nessel joined the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.