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November 15, 2019

Court Vacates Conscience Objection In HHS Final Rule

In May 2019, HHS published a Final Rule recognizing the right of an individual or entity to abstain from participation in medical procedures, programs, services, or research activities on account of a religious or moral objection. Several lawsuits were filed challenging the rule. On November 6, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York vacated the Final Rule, determining that the Final Rule created rights and obligations that HHS did not have the authority to create under the APA. The court noted the Final Rule required employers to offer an effective accommodation to employees with conscience objections, rather than the reasonable accommodation required under Title VII. Admitting that the Rule recognized and protected important rights, the court found that if HHS wished to draft a rule governing conscience objections, it must do so within the confines of the APA and the Constitution.