Jamie Kim / Gavel Media

The Conscience Rule Endangers People's Lives in the Name of Religious Freedom

Earlier this month, the Trump administration’s motion to implement the Conscience Rule was denied by a federal judge in a 147-page document describing its intrinsic legal shortcomings. The rule, which would have gone into effect this month, would essentially give health providers the right to refuse services such as abortions, sterilizations, or gender reassignment surgeries. Whether it was based on religion or ideological beliefs, a doctor could theoretically go against what their patient requested or required just to keep their conscience clean. To repeat—the patient’s wishes for their own body were to be overlooked in the name of religious beliefs or morals.

This is essentially allowing conservative doctors to impose their views on their patients. Needless to say, the rule being shot down is a win not only for pro-choice folks but also for those making brave decisions about their lifestyle, such as gender transitioning individuals or those who identify as LGBTQ+.

Sexual orientation or gender identification is not something that members of the LGBTQ+ community can choose, so how could the governing administration of the country even consider putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to their health? They are adding more difficulty on top of all the social and cultural obstacles they already have to face. In this political climate, it should be out of the question to pass legislation that oppresses certain groups of people. Thankfully there are people like Judge Paul Engelmayer who are able to call out the Trump administration and preserve an environment of inclusivity in this country.

At its root, this is an issue of the denial of adequate care. The Hippocratic Oath, which each practicing doctor takes, begins with the words, "First do no harm." While issues like abortions could be argued as causing harm to a child, especially late-term abortions, I believe many other instances such as a pregnancy risking a mother’s life or a transitioned individual seeking medical attention should not be disputed. If turning these patients away means doing harm, how could a doctor turn these individuals away and still live by that oath?

It is widely known that doctors do often have to grapple with the conflict between honoring a patient’s wishes and their own views. That’s a natural occurrence of being in a country where there are so many different ideologies and cultural beliefs. However, this should be viewed as an opportunity for those beliefs to mix and intertwine and learn from one another.

In fact, America wouldn’t be what it is today without the conglomeration of different people from different backgrounds and different ways of life. At the end of the day, the idea that differing lifestyles can’t exist together wasn’t taken away—but the challenge of that idea is disheartening. While there is no doubt that there will be similar challenges in the future, those pertaining to one’s physical health is over the line.

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