JWI's statement on the Federal Religious Refusal Rule, and your civic action to-do list for 5-6-19

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Yesterday, the Trump administration expanded the already devastating rule allowing health care providers and related institutions to refuse services based on religious or moral convictions. JWI CEO Lori Weinstein issues the following statement:

“Once again the Trump administration has used executive power to deny healthcare to our nation’s most at-risk citizens. By ignoring more than 200,000 public comments, including those from JWI and our supporters, health care providers, and medical experts, the administration has effectively denied millions of women and LGBTQ+ individuals the right to medically necessary care. It is unconscionable that these unethical and discriminatory practices not only exist in our country today, but have been expanded by the highest level of leadership. It should go against every medical and ethical standard that any person, regardless of gender, marital status, race, or religion, be denied needed medical care because of a physician’s personal religious beliefs. Already 46 of our 50 states have policies that allow providers to deny care based on ‘conscience claims.’ This new expansion opens up the door to the denial of any medical care for LGBTQ+ individuals and is devastating to women seeking reproductive care – be it fertility treatments, contraception, or abortion. Women’s health care is health care. Reproductive care is health care.

“We are deeply saddened, but we will not stop fighting. Discrimination and hate has no place in our medical system. Health care must be a right for all.”


3. Denying women and LGBTQ+ individuals access to comprehensive health care - including contraception, abortion, and fertility treatments - based on providers’ personal beliefs, biases, or judgments is an affront to patient care.

In a nutshell: A rule just finalized by the Trump administration (see the statement above) allows health care providers to use their own personal or religious beliefs to refuse to serve patients. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued this rule despite more than 200,000 public comments opposing it; now individuals and institutions - from doctors to medical receptionists and hospitals to pharmacies - can dictate and undermine millions of women’s right to health care.

Take Action: The City of San Francisco immediately sued HHS for reducing access to critical health care, and your city can follow suit. Contact your local legislators and tell them that you do not support HHS’s rule, Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care, or discrimination of any kind in medicine. Your elected officials need to know that these new barriers harm Americans and do not reflect our country’s values.


2. Background checks save lives – and the public supports them! Current law only requires background checks when a federally licensed gun dealer is selling the gun. This law needs to be expanded to include other sales as well, and a majority of people in both parties agree, favoring background checks for private gun sales and sales at gun shows.

In a nutshell: Too many guns sales (approximately 20%) are conducted without the common-sense step of checking if the purchaser has a criminal record that would prohibit him or her from having a gun. These sales take place at gun shows, through private transactions, and online. The House has passed legislation supporting universal background checks and it’s time for the Senate to do the same! [learn more]

Take Action: Call or write your senator and ask them to sign on to S. 42 – the Background Check Expansion Act – it’s what the American people want!  


1. A victim has the right to choose whether or not to testify against her abuser. Whatever her decision, the state can decide whether or not to prosecute - and too often, it chooses to let abusers go, scot free.

In a nutshell: The reasons behind a choice not to prosecute may have a lot to do with what is - and is not - deemed ‘worthy’ of the state’s attention, time, and effort.

Take Action: Read this article in the New York Times, which explains some of the dynamics behind these choices, the barriers victims face in seeking justice, and the long road ahead to make the case that ‘domestic’ violence is violence, pure and simple; then read No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Synder, the book on which this Times article is based.