(Also posted on Daily Kos.)
Well, our worst fears came true. The Bush administration today released the long-awaited health care denial rule. You know the one that more than 200,000 women's health supporters sent letters to the administration about asking it to stop the attack on reproductive health care.
I supposed we shouldn't be surprised after nearly 8 years of an administration that has relentlessly and purposefully interfered with access to basic reproductive health care services, including access to abortion, birth control, and quality sexuality education. But one would have thought that the public outcry against the proposed rule would have made them at least soften the blow. It didn't.
We feared that the rule would threaten access to birth control. It does. We feared that the rule would put the objections of individuals and institutions over the health care needs of patients. It does.
For years, federal law has carefully balanced protections for individual religious liberty and patients' access to reproductive health care. The Bush rule flies in the face of this balance and takes patients' health needs out of the equation. The rule expressly permits health care workers to refuse to provide complete and accurate information and counseling to women who seek services. At the same time, it fails to require refusing providers to either notify their employers or their patients of their objections to providing care. The result: women will have no idea if someone they rely on to put their health needs first is giving them all the information they need to make thoughtful decisions about their own care.
The silver lining in all of this is that the clock is ticking and come January we will have a new president and a new Congress. It's time to cash in on campaign promises and ask the new folks in town to restore the balance and ensure that women can get the reproductive health care they need.
- Louise Melling & Vania Leveille