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Seven States Challenge Conscience Rule Over Women's Health

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, January 19, 2009 11:11 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Women's Health, Abortion, Reproductive Health, Family Planning, Bush Administration, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Obama

SEven states will challenge the new conscience rule for health care workers in reproductive field.  



IMAGE SOURCE: ©iStockphoto/ nurse thinking/ author: emreogan


The rule is devised to make an end run around abortion rights in this country, established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973.

And now seven states are suing President Bush and the federal government over the new rule. 

The federal rule is set to take effect the day before President Bush leaves office on January 20th and it allows doctors and other health care workers to refuse to participate in abortions. It would curtail reproductive health services and emergency contraception.  Under the “conscience rule,” anyone who works in the medical field, from pharmacy cashier to brain surgeon, who objects to a procedure can opt out of participation.

State laws that require hospitals to tell rape victims about emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy will be overridden. Someone who objects to a “morning after” pill won’t have to inform the rape victim.

A medical professional who refuses to participate in a procedure cannot be charged with discrimination if they cite the action is, “contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has filed a challenge on behalf of his state and California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island.  All of the states seek a court order to block the new rule. 

Blumenthal tells CNN the regulation would put women's health care at risk and would undercut state contraception laws.

"On its way out, the Bush administration has left a ticking legal time bomb set to explode literally the day of the inaugural and blow apart vital constitutional rights and women's health care," Blumenthal said in a statement. "Women's health may be endangered -- needlessly and unlawfully -- if this rule is allowed to stand."

In addition, several organizations supporting family planning are filing separate but similar lawsuits.  And several members of the House of Representatives have also introduced legislation to stop the new rules.

President-elect Obama has said he will deal with many of the eleventh hour regulations put in place by the Bush administration once he is president.  

During his campaign he had criticized the proposal saying “This proposed regulation complicates, rather than clarifies the law. It raises troubling issues about access to basic health care for women, particularly access to contraceptives.”

Mary Jane Gallagher, president and CEO of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association told AP that the rule is unnecessary because medical providers are already protected if they refuse to participate in abortions and sterilization services.

But a Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesperson said many health care providers are unaware of their rights and have had to check their consciences at the hospital door.  HHS promulgated the rule.

The concern has been that the rule will impact poor and uninsured women who rely on family planning clinics for contraception, education and counseling.  #  


Anonymous User
Posted by anonymoice
Tuesday, January 20, 2009 4:37 PM EST

It is against my religion to treat lawyers, even for life-threatening injuries.

Does this rule excuse me from treating them?

Anonymous MD

Posted by Nick Carroll
Tuesday, January 20, 2009 4:57 PM EST

@anonymous, what religion might that be?

Comments for this article are closed.

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