Conscience Rule Vacated
On January 26, 2018, the HHS Office for Civil Rights published a notice of proposed rulemaking entitled “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority.” After 60 days of public comment, OCR published a final rule on May 21, 2019. That rule was challenged in federal court. In November 2019, before the rule became effective, a federal court vacated the 2019 final conscience rule. Under court order, the 2019 rule will remain vacated and not in effect unless OCR receives further direction from the courts. At the same time, OCR can and will continue to receive and investigate complaints under its 2011 conscience rule and HHS’s statutory authority under conscience and religious freedom laws enacted by Congress, to the extent not prohibited by court order. One court stated, “The 2011 Rule, which has governed HHS’s administration of the Conscience Provisions for eight years and is unaffected by this decision, will remain in place, and continue to provide a basis for HHS to enforce these laws” (New York v. HHS, No. 19-cv-4676-PAE doc # 248 (S.D.N.Y. Nov 6, 2019 at *144).