Proposed Bush Regulation Jeopardizes Women's Health

(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

Last Thursday the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released proposed regulations (PDF) that could seriously undermine women's access to reproductive health services, including birth control and abortion. Now the public has 30 days to let the Bush administration know precisely what we think of these regulations. Click here for our Action Alert, which will allow you to send comments to HHS.

The Bush administration is trying to spin the proposed regulations as a necessary means of protecting health care workers who refuse to participate in abortions. But federal law has long carefully balanced protections for individual religious liberty and patients' access to reproductive health care. It's disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

What's really new about these proposed regulations is that they appear to take patients' health needs out of the equation. They expand the ability of health care workers to refuse to provide complete and accurate information and counseling to women who seek services. Moreover, both the regulations, and Secretary of HHS Michael Leavitt's public comments about them, leave the door open as to whether institutions and individuals can refuse to provide contraception.

Make no mistake: that lack of clarity is intentional. As the Washington Post reports, "…when pressed about whether the regulation would protect health-care workers who consider birth control pills, Plan B and other forms of contraception to be equivalent to abortion, HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt said: 'This regulation does not seek to resolve any ambiguity in that area.'" Indeed, the Wall Street Journal notes Leavitt's admission that some medical providers may want to "press the definition."

Not reassuring.

Ditto for Leavitt's justification for issuing the proposed regulations, which is based on his willful misinterpretation of last November's statement (PDF) from the ethics committee of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist. ACOG said that doctors should either be prepared to perform "standard reproductive services" or else refer those patients to someone who will. Leavitt claims that ACOG's statement could potentially strip noncompliant doctors of their board certification, never mind that both ACOG and the executive director of the certifying board have explicitly told him otherwise.

But these regulations aren't about responding to facts. This administration has, time and again, put its political and ideological concerns above the best interests of the American people.

They are, however, a very serious threat to women's health and to existing patient protections that ensure that even in the face of religious refusals women can get the health care they need.

Click here to go to our Action Alert, which will allow you to submit comments to HHS. The deadline is September 20 and volume counts, so please act quickly and tell your friends.

Add a comment (21)
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Elisabeth Ellenbogen

Excerpt from my e-mail: A WOMAN, HEALTHY OR ILL, WEALTHY OR POOR, MUST BE ABLE TO ACCESS FULL KNOWLEDGE AND HEALTH CARE IN A FREE SOCIETY. WHEN PROFESSIONALS HAVE PROBLEMS PERFORMING THE TASK AT HAND A DIFFERENT CHOICE OF JOB MAY BE IN ORDER!

In no other social discourse may a person refuse to perform a task that comes with the job.

Spiritual counseling can be made available in a different environment. To lump it together with health care under government supervision violates the First Amendment!

Bob Armstrong

This is one of those issues which , as a libertarian , I strongly disagree with ACLU's stand .

First of all , the very first clause of the First Amendment is freedom of religion . The idea of the State forcing someone to act against their conscience is the most extreme tyranny , as evil as for the State to attempt to get between a woman and her womb . The Market provides choices . Freedom for each to follow their own conscience is the sacred principle .

Second , the State should have nothing to do with either preventing or subsidizing women's various health and reproductive choices . The ACLU will argue against the prevention , but argues that resources should be taken by force even from those whose beliefs are strongly opposed , to subsidize other people's other choices . This also is tyranny .

Jay Gell

I am writing to urge you to stop efforts to continue funding the ACLU as they are a fraud. the ACLU is and has been over reaching both it's charter and authority that allowed for it's creation. Personally I am Pro choice, on the side of life. however in the case of continued tax dollars being funneled to the "American Civil Liberties" to "defend" every one but American's Civil liberties, like this current campaing to aid funding for pharmicudical and social clinic's under the guise of protecting some basic right. ABSTINENCE is the birth control of RIGHT and no other. If I could have it my way I would defund and remove federal law requiring or allowing ACLU funding as well as the bigest and most powerful social stronghold on our economy, the Department of Health and Human Services and many other money sucking wasteful big goverment programs NOW.

According to researchers at the Guttmacher Institute -- a nonprofit think tank on sexual and reproductive health -- without the contraceptive services provided at publicly funded clinics, there would be 46 percent more unintended pregnancies (1.4 million more) annually in the United States than currently occur.

Interesting DHHS punishes parents for diciplin of children and trying to teach abstinence and other wholesome family values and the ACLU thinks the have the right to defend female adolesent and teen right to be promisquous trash. right!!!!

At a time when more and more Americans are either uninsured or struggling with the soaring costs of health care, the federal government should be defunding ACLU and DHHS as well as other very wasteful "service" then Working American's could afford a whole lot more with the tax dollars they save.

Jay Gell

sorry about the spelling errors, I'm a hard working metal fabricator not a typist at all.

N

If people would develop some morals then there would be no controversy
sex= for marriage
children = gift
abortion= murder

Skyblue

I submitted feedback on this regulation to the HHS electronically (too long to post here.) I read the regulations and found overreaching definitions of "actor", "services", and "health care entity" to include persons without medical training that don't even come in contact with a patient and that work for organizations that don't provide medical services, as having a right to "refuse" to "participate" in procedures that offend their conscience. This may be a person doing electronic insurance claim payment approval, and who can "refuse" to approve payment for an "offensive service", even if the service was provided, must be paid for, and is covered under the insurance plan! It can also be an organization of volunteer nurses that provide children vaccinations and who would be required to keep in staff a nurse who finds vaccinations offensive, even if there is no other job for this nurse to do at this organization!
Overreaching is an understatement of what these regulations are.

I don't see how these regulations advances the interests of Americans health care.

Skyblue

To Jay Gell: The "provider conscience regulations" include an estimate of the the cost in the regulation itself:
http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2008pres/08/20080821reg.pdf

"The total quantifiable costs of the proposed regulation, if finalized, are estimated to be $44.5 million each year."

The ACLU is NOT a government service and it is not funded by the Government.
You would further your desire for more health coverage by helping the ACLU defeat this regulation that costs about $1 million per year per each person uninsured in this country.

Mildred

Concerning doctors and patients, treatment and medicines should be discussed between the doctor AND the patient (and parents/guardians if the patient is a minor) not left solely to the doctor's decision.

Is birth control opening a path for destructive or illegal behavior? I don't think so.

If anything, it's reducing the chances that anyone taking it will be subject to entertaining thoughts of abortion.

Isn't that what we're trying to prevent here?

Not all women take BC to prevent pregnancy. Many take it for their own monthly circumstances, and especially in that case, such women should not have to be told that they are not allowed to. That is beyond unjust.

Why should a woman, one who is plagued worse than normal every month, have to deny herself the means to make it better, when doing so wouldn't bring any harm at all? It truly makes no sense.

Susan-ban-dusan

This push to deprive women and their families of the ability to make their own decisions about whether to have a child harken back to the 'barefoot and pregnant' days.

There is so much hate and fear of the possibility that women and their families, not old-white-men in positions of government power,can make their own decisions about the number of children they can support and raise in a healthy environment.

Isn't family planning a prime example of 'healthy families,' or is that just a catch phrase which has long been used to justify the government dictating reproductive decisions.

Dennis

Yep, The cosevitives are out in force sspreading misand dis information where ever they go.. What part of seperation of church and state doen't you get? what part don't you understand?

The part that a woman should be able to have say over her body or the part that a religious fanatic can have say.. and worse a fanatic who thinks it's just ducky that the government supports her church with money, but no one elses?

Its hypocrisy to the extreme. Woman are going to have say. Ethier through a legal means or through a back alley.

i would prefer a legal safe manner. Than the alternative. While I am sure those well meaning conservitive fanatics can sleep good knowing that government is no longer funding and doc can deney suchtreatment because of it offending such fine senseibilties. I hope you could sleep well. Cause every woman that dies from a back alley treatment will be blood on your hands.

If a doc has a problem with such treatment or procedures. The unstated rule has always been to refer such a patient to a fellow practioner.

Pharmacists are not docs. They are in business to make money. If a pharmicists starts refusing to do his/her job then they will go out of business.

So hate the aclu, hate the fact that they tell yiou unpleasent truths. I will always support and cheer them on.

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