The Biden administration is in the process of getting rid of a rule from the Trump administration that permits medical workers to refuse to provide services that conflict with their religious or moral convictions, Politico reported on Tuesday.
Politico learned of the move from three people knowledgeable about the discussions, with a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) confirming that the policy change is underway and could come as soon as the end of this month.
The move has taken on more urgency as many Republican-led states are in the process of limiting access to abortions and transgender care. As a result, many progressive advocacy groups are urging the federal government to take action in order to defend the rights of patients.
The plans are currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget, which is usually the final step before a regulation change under consideration goes public, according to Politico.
The so-called conscience rule was finalized in 2019, but was never implemented as it was blocked by federal courts after a lawsuit was filed by dozens of states, cities, and advocacy groups.
Had it been implemented, the conscience rule would have permitted health workers to refuse to provide abortions, contraception, gender affirming care, or any procedure to which they object on moral grounds.
Even though it never took effect, getting rid of the rule is viewed by progressive advocates as a major step in dismantling the Trump administration's policy on reproductive rights, which Democrats vowed to do during the 2020 electoral campaign, Politico reported.
Last year, Biden started undoing anti-abortion restrictions on the Title X family planning program and foreign aid.
Jacqueline Ayers, the senior vice president of policy, organizing and campaigns for Planned Parenthood, which was part of the lawsuit against the Trump administration rule in 2019, told Politico that "we look forward to seeing the details of the new rule and are excited about this step forward."
She added that "as state politicians continue to strip people of their sexual and reproductive rights and freedoms, it's imperative that the Biden-Harris administration revoke this discriminatory policy and help ensure people can access the healthcare and information they need when they need it."
Audrey Sandusky, the spokesperson for the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, said, "We look forward to seeing the proposed rule's text to ensure that the federal government safeguards patients' need for high-quality healthcare."
She added that "this action will go a long way toward strengthening patient access to high-quality healthcare and protecting the integrity of key HHS programs, including the Title X family planning program."
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