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Judge blocks religious refusal rule that would've put Santa Clara county at risk of losing $1B

Similar decisions reached by courts in New York, Spokane, Washington

A U.S. judge in San Francisco on Tuesday struck down a new federal rule that would have allowed health care workers ranging from ambulance drivers to receptionists to refuse to provide care for religious reasons, which would've blocked Santa Clara County from $1 billion in federal funding.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup said the rule announced by the administration of President Donald Trump in May went beyond the protections given in congressional laws to doctors and nurses who object to providing abortions and other procedures.

Under the new rule, Alsup wrote, "an ambulance driver would be free, on religious or moral grounds, to eject a patient en route to a hospital upon learning that the patient needed an emergency abortion.

Alsup is the third federal judge in the nation to strike down the rule. Similar decisions were issued by judges in New York City and Spokane, Washington, on Nov. 6 and 7.

Alsup ruled in three lawsuits filed by the city of San Francisco, the state of California and Santa Clara County together with a group of doctors and clinics.

"Today's court ruling blocked the president's heartless, unlawful attempt to restrict the healthcare rights of women, LGBTQ individuals, and countless others," State Attorney General Xavier Becerra said on Nov. 19.

The rule would have denied federal health, welfare and education funds to state and local governments that didn't certify compliance. California could have risked losing $77.6 billion and San Francisco and Santa Clara County each $1 billion annually in federal funding, according to a brief they filed.

If not blocked, the measure would have gone into effect on Nov. 22.

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