Attorney General Bonta Co-Leads Multistate Coalition in Support of Biden Rule Blocking Discrimination in Access to Healthcare

Monday, March 6, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

The Biden Administration rule would rescind portions of Trump’s discriminatory 'Healthcare Refusal Rule'

OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta and New York Attorney General Letitia James today led a coalition of 22 states in support of a proposed federal rule that protects access to healthcare for all individuals. The proposed rule rescinds portions of a dangerous 2019 Trump Administration rule that allowed any individual or entity — from doctors to front-desk receptionists — to deny healthcare based on religious or moral objections, even in emergency situations. It also sought to coerce compliance from the states by threatening to rescind federal funding. In today’s comment letter, the coalition of attorneys general wrote that the Biden Administration’s proposed rule eliminates the problematic and illegal aspects of the 2019 Rule and better safeguards patients, including those from the LGBTQ community and those seeking abortions, from being denied access to critical or lifesaving health services.

“Healthcare is a human right and everyone, no matter who they are or who they love, deserves equal access to it,” said Attorney General Bonta. “I applaud the Biden Administration’s new proposed rule, which undoes the harmful, discriminatory provisions enacted by his predecessor and ensures that states committed to equitable care, like California, continue to receive critical federal funding for our communities’ health and education. As we emerge from the global pandemic, we’ve seen disparities in healthcare laid bare across the nation. That’s why we must remain more committed than ever to defending, protecting, and strengthening equitable access to quality healthcare for all.”

The 2019 Trump-era rule, also known as the 'Healthcare Refusal Rule', allowed virtually anyone working in healthcare the ability to broadly refuse to provide care based on religious or moral beliefs. For example, if an ambulance driver learned a patient experiencing an ectopic pregnancy was seeking care that they were opposed to, the driver could decline to transport the patient, even if doing so would risk the patient’s life. The 2019 rule also threatened to cut off hundreds of billions of dollars in essential federal healthcare funding to the states for a single breach of the rule — in essence forcing a ‘gun to the head’ of state and local governments that depend on federal funds — in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The 2019 Healthcare Refusal Rule was successfully blocked in multiple lawsuits nationwide, including by California. In January, the Biden Administration announced a new proposed rule that seeks to rescind portions of the 2019 rule.

In today’s comment letter, the 22 attorneys general expressed their support of the new proposed rule, arguing that:

  • It protects vulnerable populations, including LGBTQ communities and people seeking reproductive care, by revoking the most dangerous parts of the 2019 rule that opened them up to discrimination and threatened to exacerbate already existing inequities in healthcare;
  • It strikes a better balance between safeguarding conscience rights of individual medical providers and protecting access to healthcare for patients;
  • It corrects portions of the 2019 rule that are redundant, confusing, or have been deemed illegal by courts in litigation brought by the states, as well as local governments and healthcare providers; and
  • It protects billions of dollars in federal funding for states’ public healthcare and other federally funded programs that provide crucial health, education, and labor services.

In filing the comment letter, Attorney General Bonta and Attorney General James were joined by the attorneys general of Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and Vermont.

A copy of the comment letter can be found here.

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