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.
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.