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Source and Scope of Public Health Legal Powers

New York v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


New York v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Nov. 6, 2019): The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York struck down a rule recently promulgated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would have allowed health care providers and health care organizations to abstain from providing certain procedures, services, or research activities on the basis of moral or religious objections. The court concluded HHS’ promulgation of the so-called conscience rule was “arbitrary and capricious” and in excess of its rulemaking and enforcement authority. The court also determined that the rule’s provision authorizing termination of HHS funding violated separation of powers principles and the Spending Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit was brought against HHS by New York and 18 other states; the District of Columbia, New York City, Chicago, and Cook County (IL); and health advocacy groups. Plaintiffs argued that the conscience rule would: (1) prioritize the personal views of health care providers over patients’ needs, and (2) impede the ability of health care facilities to provide effective care. Read the decision here.

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