(Washington, D.C.)—Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, along with Representatives Chris Pappas (D-NH) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), introduced the Put Patients First Act, following the Southern District of New York’s decision to block the Trump Administration’s attempt to refuse to provide lifesaving care on religious or “conscience” bases. This legislation affirms the court’s decision and further safeguards the health of all Americans.
Along with the court’s ruling, it is important that Congress also take action to make absolutely clear that we will protect the rights of patients and stand up to attempts by this and any other Administration to play politics with Americans’ health care. The Put Patients First Act would permanently block the Trump-Pence Administration’s rule that was finalized earlier this year, which permits widespread discrimination in health care by allowing personal beliefs to dictate patient health care. This rule allows virtually any individual or entity involved in a patient’s care – from a hospital’s board of directors to a receptionist that schedules procedures – to withhold care based on personal beliefs.
“The Trump Administration is trying to make it possible for almost anybody involved in a patient’s care to put their own personal views ahead of that patient’s medical needs,” said Senator Patty Murray. “While courts have ruled with patients and health care rather than ideology and hate and halted President Trump’s harmful plan to support discrimination for now, people’s health care shouldn’t hang on a court decision. We’re introducing this legislation to make sure that no matter who you are, your care is based on your medical needs and not someone else’s beliefs.”
“Personal beliefs should never determine the care a patient receives,” said Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). “This bill will literally put the health needs of patients first – from a woman seeking care following a miscarriage to a transgender patient seeking a basic medical check-up. We applaud Representatives Lee and Pappas, and Senator Murray, for fighting back against this Administration’s harmful attacks on health care.”
“The care patients receive should be predicated on their medical needs and not the personally-held beliefs of providers or administrators,” said Congressman Pappas. “While conscience-based protections already exist in law, this extreme rule puts patients at risk. The Put Patients First Act is essential to block this unconstitutional rule. We must ensure a provider’s personal or religious beliefs do not compromise patient care.”
“Patients of color, low-income patients, and the LGBTQ community are already more likely to face barriers to accessing health care – and the Trump Administration’s dangerous refusal of care rule would have made that even worse,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “I know full well how dangerous such rules are: my own mother almost died giving birth to me because doctors refused her care based on her race. Our bill will ensure that no one is denied the care they need based on a provider’s personal beliefs – because the only thing that should dictate patient care is what’s best for the patient.”
“Freedom of religion is a fundamental right, but personal beliefs cannot be used to discriminate against or harm others,” said Ronald Newman, National Political Director at the ACLU. “That’s why we are proud to stand with Representatives Lee and Pappas and Senator Murray in support of this legislation to ensure that patients are not refused health care on the basis of others’ beliefs. The Trump Administration’s latest attempt to license discrimination targeting LGBTQ people and all women cannot go unchecked by our elected representatives.”
This legislation has been endorsed by the ACLU, Center for American Progress, Center for Reproductive Rights, Guttmacher Institute, Human Rights Campaign, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, Lambda Legal, The LGBTQ Task Force, NARAL, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, National Abortion Federation, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, National LGBTQ Task Force, National Women’s Law Center, Physicians for Reproductive Health, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
The bill was cosponsored in the Senate by: Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Ben Cardin (D-MD).