Rescind Bush Health Care Denial Rule

The Obama administration appears to be making good on a promise to restore the balance between individual religious liberty and access to reproductive health care. As we reported in this space back in December, when the Bush administration pushed through the Health Care Denial Rule as its parting shot against women’s reproductive health, our fears were realized. The Bush rule seriously threatens access to basic reproductive health services, including birth control and information about abortion, and puts the objections of health care workers and institutions above the health care needs of patients.

Today, the Obama administration took the first step toward rescinding this ill-conceived rule, and it needs your help to make the Bush rule a shameful blip in the history of reproductive freedom in this country.

What’s Wrong with the Bush Rule

The Bush rule jeopardizes the ability of women to access birth control — especially low-income women who rely on federally funded clinics for their care. If that wasn’t bad enough, these same women, under the Bush rule, may never even get the information they need to make decisions about their health. The rule, you see, permits individual health care workers to refuse to provide information and counseling about basic health care services. Additionally, it invites health care institutions to ignore laws that were expressly written to protect access to critical reproductive health services.

Why the Bush administration thought we needed this rule is unclear. What is clear is that for years, federal law has carefully balanced protections for individual religious liberty and patients’ access to reproductive health care. The Bush rule takes those existing laws and takes patients’ health needs out of the equation.

Restore Protections

The Obama administration needs to hear that we want protections for patients’ health needs restored. Starting next week and continuing through April 9, the administration will ask the public to weigh in on the Bush rule. The ACLU will be sending in comments. We urge you to join us in this effort by going to our Action Center next week to send a letter to the new administration.

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 expanding access to important health services, not interfering in programs that have successfully provided services for years. This one is an easy fix. Make sure the Obama administration restores the balance and rescinds the Bush Health Care Denial Rule.

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the aclu needs to move to cuba, they are a worthless organzation. the cia did the right thing. i did my job to protect america in iraq and the dirtbags the cia questioned should be dead. the cia did a great job except the dirtbags are still alive


This rule doesn't only apply to reproductive care. What is to stop someone in the health care arena such as an insurance billing clerk from converting to Christian Science and then refusing to bill a patient's insurance company for care or for drugs the patient is prescribed. This rule also allows clerks, janitors, cashiers and the like to refuse to provide any service.

Finally, the worst part of it is that the provider taking advantage of this rule does not have to even inform their employer of what they are doing. They can just refuse to provide care including information and referrals, the patient may be none the wiser - and even the employer is not aware of what is going on.

This whole thing is a bunch of poppycock. If your conscience says you cannot participate in care of a patient - then you need to find another career.

Anders Oether, ...

A health professional should never be forced to perform an abortion, if it is against his conscience.
I am a member of ACLU, and if ACLU supports such use of coersion or force to have an abortion peformed, that could easily be performed in another hospital, THEN STRIKE MY NAME FROM YOUR LIST OF MEMBERS


No one is talking about forcing anyone to do anything.

I am just saying that if doctors/nurses/whoever don't want to do abortions - they should not be working in an arena where someone might be expected to do so.

The idea that someone could hire a health care provider - and then have that person not only refuse to provide these services - but fail to even notify the employer that they are doing this is unconscionable.

And to your point about going somewhere else - that's fine if you live in a place where there is that choice. In many of our large western states that is not the case. Many communities have no hospital at all, and the one people have to go to is many hours of driving away.

The Bush Rule allows these providers to not only refuse to provide services - but they don't have to tell the patient about alternative access.

The rule we had before was working fine. ACLU is basically asking to go back to what we had before - no one was forced to do anything they didn't want to. But the patients were informed of what was going on, and providers are required to give them information and referrals to someone who will.

Brett Bellmore

"No one is talking about forcing anyone to do anything."

Utter BS.

It should be called the "Doctors aren't slaves" rule, it denies women choice about health care in the EXACT same sense as the 13th amendment denied plantation owners choice about how to raise cotton.

It's embarrassing that you can't figure out that a right to do something in no way implies a right to COMPEL SOMEBODY ELSE TO PROVIDE IT.

The ACLU has come full circle: From defending civil liberties, to pretending liberties explicitly guaranteed in the Bill of Rights don't exist, to inventing civil liberties that aren't in the Constitution. And finally, to attacking real civil liberties, (The right not to be compelled to labor!) in the name of it's invented liberties.

You ought to be ashamed!


A basic human right is the right to follow your conscience. Just because you are a healthcare worker does not mean you are not allowed to follow your conscience. I assure you, there are many, many healthcare workers that will take up the slack for those that have refuse to violate their conscience.

This is not a woman's issue, it is a human rights issue. A medical doctor has taken a vow to "do no harm" and it is not right for us to reguire anyone to do anything that violates their conscience. This is Freedom 101, people. FREEDOM TO ACT ACCORDING TO YOUR CONSCIENCE.

Gee, think about what would have happened if the ss followed their conscience and not the law during Hitler's reign?


I noticed that my comments were censored. So much for protection of freedom!


I've often wondered why an organization whose purpose is to uphold the rights of those without power, refuse to uphold the rights of the most powerless among us - the babies not yet born.

David Faubion

Health care workers who--for religious "reasons"--cannot follow the rule of law of our constitution--must find other work. The Vatican and the RNC may have openings in the dwindling arena of luddite zealotry. Give women full rights as human beings before your give her fetus a non-existent, autonomous right that logic does not support and our Constitution denies.


For you Olly North lovers and ACLU haters: on July 20, 1990, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU, North's convictions were vacated.
Go ahead, Google it.


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