President Trump has issued a final ‘conscience rule’ protecting medical staff who disagree with issues such as abortion and assisted suicide on ethical grounds.
The rule completes a promise made by the President in 2017, to promote and protect the fundamental rights of conscience and religious liberty.
But 24 US states and districts have already begun legal action to sue the Trump administration, claiming the law would make it more awkward to access abortions.
The 440-page document, issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services’s Office for Civil Rights, states that medical providers that receive government funding will have to prove they are complying with “applicable conscience provisions”.
Those which fail to respect the conscience rights of workers will have government funding withdrawn.
The rule also protects those who not only decline to provide a service, but also decline to refer a patient to someone else who will.
The conscience protection has been greeted as a “major religious freedom victory”.
Roger Severino, Director of the Office for Civil Rights, said: “This rule ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life.”
“Protecting conscience and religious freedom not only fosters greater diversity in healthcare, it’s the law.”
The ruling follows a number of cases of medical professionals who have been punished for not performing procedures they morally disagree with.
Pro-abortion groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, accused lawmakers of endorsing discrimination.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is leading a legal battle against the Trump administration, in an attempt to prevent the rule from coming into effect in the summer.