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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today expressed grave concern as the Bush administration released a controversial rule that will jeopardize women's health and access to birth control. Despite public objections, the final rule expands the ability of health care providers to refuse to provide services and fails to include patient protections.
"The new HHS rule is President Bush's parting shot at women's access to basic health care," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "This administration has continually put politics and ideology before science and patients' health."
After issuing the proposed rule change in August, the administration received more than 200,000 comments opposing the regulation, including those from the ACLU and its state affiliates, medical associations, women's health organizations, members of Congress, state governors and attorneys general, religious advocates and the general public. In its comments, the ACLU explained that federal law already requires employers to attempt to accommodate employees' religious and moral objections to the provision of any health care service.
"Contrary to existing federal law, today's rule fails to carefully balance protections for individual religious liberty and patients' access to reproductive health care," said Vania Leveille, ACLU Legislative Counsel. "We are hopeful that the new Congress and Obama administration will restore the long-standing balance between protecting patients' access to reproductive health care and individual religious liberty."
"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, not hampering, access to important health services," said Louise Melling, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.
The ACLU is looking into all options available to rescind this expansive rule.
The ACLU's comments on the proposed rule are available at: www.aclu.org/reproductiverights/gen/36942leg20080925.html
The final HHS rule is available at: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-30134.pdf