Trump Expansion of Religious Refusal Targets Women, Shreds Democracy and Puts Politics Over Health Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Donald Trump announced an expanded “conscience rule,” otherwise known as a religious refusal, that will further erode the government’s role in protecting women’s health, replacing the delivery of health care with partisan, extremist politics.

The rule allows virtually any individual or entity involved in a patient’s care – from a hospital’s board of directors to the receptionist that schedules procedures – to put personal religious beliefs ahead of a patient’s health and deny basic medical care that includes abortion, reproductive health care and treatment for transgender patients.

The Hippocratic Oath dictates that medical professionals “do no harm,” but this new rule harms patients and tramples on their own deeply held values and beliefs. The medical care a patient receives is at the heart of our health care system–not the political beliefs or ideology of the office staff.  How can anyone count on their most personal medical decisions being respected–including end-of-life directives–if our health care system puts patients’ interests behind political considerations?

This new rule means rape survivors could be denied emergency birth control; same-sex couples could be denied fertility treatment, and women with an unintended pregnancy could be denied information and counseling on their options. Furthermore, health care providers take a pledge to provide care to anyone in need and this action is a violation of that fundamental standard.

Donald Trump has made it clear that he will block, impede, thwart and subvert our laws, constitutional norms and basic rights to advance his extremist anti-abortion agenda. His new rule invents a “right to discriminate” for those who oppose the scientific facts and constitutional protections associated with abortion care.

The Trump administration has taken this action ahead of the 2020 presidential election to incite his conservative base who oppose abortion and at the behest of conservative religious organizations who seek to advance their dangerous agenda regardless of whether it is sound medical practice. Meanwhile, millions of women and men in need will be denied crucial health care services.

His “conscience rule” is morally bankrupt, legally indefensible and unconscionable for anyone who cares about the constitutional protection of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  NOW supports a legal challenge to this blatantly political policy. We will work tirelessly to keep it from taking effect and continue to demand protection for women’s right to health care.

Contact: NOW Press,, 202-570-4745