Trump's “Denial of Care Rule” and a Nurse's Responsibility in Combating It

Monica Lin - 06/12/19

A mom rushes her daughter into a clinic to receive medical care because she is unable to see. It happened suddenly, but because her daughter does not look like what one would “regularly expect” a woman to look like, a clinic denies her the care that she needs and walks away after treating the two of them rudely. They go home, but the problem persists, and by the time she is actually offered treatment, it’s too late -- the damage has been done, and now a young girl will suffer from an ailment that could’ve been stopped in its tracks for the rest of her life.

On May 2, 2019, the Trump administration officially announced a new rule regarding protections of religious conscience for the medical field; titled the “Denial of Care Rule,” it gives nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals the power to deny medical attention to anyone that they believe violates their beliefs and also the ability to not practice any kind of procedures that also violate their personal moral and religious beliefs (CNN, 2019). Despite how dire someone’s situation may be, healthcare professionals will now have the right to deny care as they deem fit.

This rule, then, deeply harms women and transgender patients especially and, using religious beliefs as a justification for a great moral injustice. In truth, though religious liberty is fundamental, it does not include the liberty to discriminate or harm others, and with this new rule, lives are definitely on the line. It blocks access to important federal programs like that of Title X and its family planning program. It blurs the role of healthcare in the lives of patients, and makes it more subjective, which creates deeply unfair and confusing environment for both patients and healthcare providers.

This rule was passed by the Trump administration the month before Pride Month, which is rather distasteful as it is an act that clearly undermines the rights of an entire community. Just because this rule was passed, though, doesn’t mean that medical professionals must abide by it, and it is your job, as nurses, to make sure that the healthcare you provide is still equal, fair, and comfortable.

To do this, you can actively try to make sure that your hospital’s spaces are inclusive and welcoming to everyone that this rule targets. You can still urge for your hospital to offer services for people that this rule seeks to stop the practices of. You must try your best to separate your religious beliefs from your medical work, you should always speak up against other nurses or professionals if you see them behaving in a discriminatory manner, and you should actively try to participate in and get others involved in workshops that include work with members of the LGTBQ+ community. You are an active part in making sure that LGBTQ+ patients receive the care and treatment that they deserve.

If you want more information regarding how to care for and treat LGBTQ+ patients in an increasingly hostile environment, feel free to check out our course on Cultural Competency or reading our previous blogposts on this topic, such as Nurses, Patients and 21st-Century Gender Expression.

Though government officials are our leaders, the people do not always have to abide by their rules and policies, and it is your job as nurses to make sure that the care you provide is nondiscriminatory and truly helps with the healing that is necessary for all patients, no matter their backgrounds or gender affiliations.