2 health organizations sue to stop new federal health rules

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NEW YORK (AP) — Two health organizations sued the federal government Tuesday to stop a new policy creating obstacles for women seeking abortions.

The National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association and Public Health Solutions Inc. sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Manhattan federal court, joining other women's groups, organizations and multiple states seeking to reverse the rule announced in February.

In the lawsuit, the groups labeled as "arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion" the rule letting health care clinicians object to providing abortions and other services that conflict with their moral or religious beliefs. It was filed by lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union.

A similar lawsuit was filed last month in Manhattan by nearly two dozen states and municipalities.

In a release, the organizations said that the rule would let a hospital receptionist refuse to schedule an appointment for a transgender patient seeking gender-affirming care or allow an orderly to refuse to move a patient to the operating room for an emergency abortion.

The Department of Justice, whose lawyers would represent the federal government, did not return a message seeking comment.

"Freedom of religion is a fundamental right, but it cannot be used to harm others — especially when that includes withholding emergency care or critical information about patients' health," said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an attorney with the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project.

"The rule could eviscerate the delivery of high-quality family planning services in this country," said Clare Coleman, head of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, which represents over 850 health care organizations nationwide that serve millions of people, including over 3.7 million low-income, uninsured and underinsured individuals.

"This discriminatory rule will undermine access to health care for populations nationwide and roll back the years of progress we've made on advancing the quality of family planning services," said Lisa David, president of Public Health Solutions, which annually serves 105,000 primarily low-income individuals and families in New York.

Other organizations which have sued include the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Women's Law Center and Democracy Forward.

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