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States and cities sue over health care rule

President Donald Trump participates in a National Day of Prayer service in the Rose Garden at the White House on Thursday, May 02.

WASHINGTON -- A group of mostly Democratic states filed lawsuits against the Trump administration on Tuesday, May 21, challenging a new federal rule that gives health care providers, insurers and employers greater latitude to refuse to provide or pay for medical services that they say violate their religious or moral beliefs.

A lawsuit by a coalition of 23 states and cities, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, says the rule illegally favors the personal views of health care workers over the needs of patients "at a dangerous price" of hobbling the ability of state-run health care facilities to provide effective care.

A separate suit, brought by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, says the rule "impedes access to basic care" and "encourages discrimination against vulnerable patients, including women and LGBTQ individuals.

The suits, plus one brought earlier this month by San Francisco, seek to block the rule, announced by President Donald Trump early this month and published Tuesday in the Federal Register, which allows individuals and entities to refrain from delivering or paying for services such as abortion, sterilization or assisted suicide if they have a religious or moral objection to them. The 440-page rule also grants parents the right to refuse several specific types of care for their children.

The lawsuits are part of a spate of federal litigation challenging various ways the Trump administration has been rewriting health care policies. Courts have issued temporary injunctions to block some of the policies while the disputes play out in court.

The "conscience protections," as their advocates call them, are among actions taken by the Health and Human Services Department that appeal to Christian conservatives, a constituency that is part of Trump's political base. The rule is due to take effect in late July.

In addition to New York, the plaintiffs are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, plus the cities of Chicago and New York; Cook County, Ill; and D.C.

This article was written by Amy Goldstein, a reporter for The Washington Post.