Federal Court Vacates “Conscience Rule”

By , Published On: November 22, 2019

On November 6, 2019, the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York vacated, in its entirety, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Final Rule, Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegation of Authority.  This “conscience protection rule” was scheduled to go into effect today, November 22, 2019.

The regulations set forth in the Final Rule would have enhanced the rights of health care workers to object to performing, paying for, referring for, providing coverage of, or providing services, such as abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide, due to a conscience or religious belief.  Furthermore, the regulations would have greatly expanded the Office of Civil Rights’ monitoring and enforcement authority with regard to a variety of federal health care conscience laws.

The HHS recently announced that given the federal court order, the Final Rule will remain vacated and not in effect unless the OCR receives additional instruction from the courts. In its statement, however, HHS stated that the Office of Civil Rights will continue to receive and investigate complaints of discrimination based upon a medical provider’s conscientious objections under the regulations enacted in 2011.


If you have any questions about this update or other matters, please contact Carrie Bill Riley (Partner), Brittney Hall (Associate), or call (202) 466-8960.