“As state politicians continue to strip people of their sexual and reproductive rights and freedoms, it’s imperative that the Biden-Harris administration revoke this discriminatory policy and help ensure people can access the health care and information they need when they need it,” said Jacqueline Ayers, the senior vice president of policy, organizing and campaigns for Planned Parenthood, which was part of a lawsuit against the Trump administration rule in 2019. “We look forward to seeing the details of the new rule and are excited about this step forward.”
The so-called conscience rule, unveiled in 2018 and finalized in 2019, was blocked by federal courts after dozens of states, cities and advocacy groups sued, and has never been implemented.
Had it gone forward, it would have allowed doctors, nurses, medical students, pharmacists and other health workers to refuse to provide abortions, contraception, gender affirming care, HIV and STD services, vasectomies or any procedure to which they object.
Rescinding the rule is seen by progressive advocates as a key part of dismantling the Trump administration’s legacy on reproductive rights, which Democrats promised to do once they took control of Washington. Last year, Biden moved to undo anti-abortion restrictions on the Title X family planning program and foreign aid, and many groups have pushed for the “conscience” rule to be next.
“There is so much to unravel,” said Leila Abolfazli, the director of federal reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center, which sued the Trump administration over the rule in 2019. “I’m encouraged that they have been working through all these pieces.”
The planned rescission is currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget, which is often the final step before a proposed regulation goes public.
Many progressive groups that have called for the rule change say they’re reserving judgment until they see whether the Biden administration will completely undo the Trump administration rule or leave some aspects in place.
“We look forward to seeing the proposed rule’s text to ensure that the federal government safeguards patients’ need for high-quality health care,” said Audrey Sandusky, the spokesperson for the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. Still, she added, “This action will go a long way toward strengthening patient access to high-quality health care and protecting the integrity of key HHS programs, including the Title X family planning program.”