Lehigh Valley LGBT center joins lawsuit against federal rule

Dawn Ouellette Nixon//May 31, 2019

Lehigh Valley LGBT center joins lawsuit against federal rule

Dawn Ouellette Nixon//May 31, 2019

Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown has joined a coalition of activists in a lawsuit challenging a proposed federal rule that would allow doctors, nurses, emergency workers and other medical providers to deny treatment and services to patients if it conflicts with their religious or moral beliefs.

Adrian Shanker, executive director of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown – submitted

The rule was issued earlier this month by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

Health care facilities that do not comply with the rule, which goes into effect in July, risk losing federal funding.

The lawsuit was filed May 28 by Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ civil rights organization based in New York City, Americans United for Church and State and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

In addition to Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, the following other entities have joined the suit; California’s Santa Clara County; Trust Women Seattle; Hartford GYN; Whitman-Walker Health in Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles LGBT Center; Center on Halsted in Chicago; Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia; GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality; Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists; Medical Students for Choice and various physicians.

“This is an unconscionable rule that causes harm to all Americans,” said Adrian Shanker, executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center. “It is making health care harder to access for all, not just the LGBT community. We must stand up to defend our community and our health care.”

Despite the growing opposition to the rule, Jeremy Samek, senior counsel with the Pennsylvania Family Council in Harrisburg, believes the rule will protect health care workers from being fired for refusing to participate in procedures they do not believe in.

“The purpose of the rule is not to deny medical care,” Samek said. “People cannot be forced to participate in abortions or elective sex-change surgery. That doesn’t equate to someone being denied needed care because they are transgender.  There is no evidence that that is happening.”

The lawsuit, however, argues that the rule is unconstitutional because it advances specific religious beliefs in violation of the First Amendment; violates patients’ rights to privacy, liberty and freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment; and contributes to the detriment of patients’ health and well-being.

The lawsuit also asserts that the Department of Health and Human Services violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act in creating the rule by failing to consider the impact on patients.

“We hope to block this rule,” said Shanker. “It is unconstitutional to create a system where patients are prevented from seeking care. Not only is it bad for patients but it is bad for the facilities that want to provide care.”

“Discrimination in the delivery of health care can be a matter of life or death,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York City, in a news release. “This new policy could threaten anyone seeking medical care in this country, but will fall particularly hard on women and LGBTQ patients.”