HHS Repeals Portions Of Health Care Denial Rule That Threatened Women's Health

February 18, 2011 3:06 pm

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NEW YORK– The Department of Health and Human Services today modified a regulation originally issued by the Bush administration that was designed to allow insurance companies, hospitals and other health care providers to refuse to offer basic reproductive health services, including birth control and life-saving abortions. The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed the changes, while urging the administration and lawmakers to oppose ongoing efforts in the House of Representatives to place politics over women’s health.

“We are pleased the Obama administration eliminated the most egregious portions of the rule that endangered women’s access to emergency care and reproductive health services,” said Jennifer Dalven, Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “The administration must now stand firm and prevent the passage of other extreme measures. A patient’s health and safety must be a health care provider’s first priority.”

The House of Representatives is currently considering several new measures such as a bill that would allow hospitals to abandon a pregnant woman in need of an emergency abortion, a proposal to eliminate funding for the Title X Family Planning Program and legislation that would take away insurance coverage for abortion from the millions of women who currently have it.

“Women’s access to health care is currently under assault in Congress,” said Vania Leveille, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. “Members of Congress and the administration must put the brakes on these measures that would take away access to basic reproductive health services and put women and their families at risk.”

Today’s modification does not alter long-standing federal laws which allow health care providers to deny patients certain health care services based on their personal beliefs.

The ACLU, representing the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, filed a lawsuit challenging the rule in 2008. Eight state attorneys general and Planned Parenthood Federation of America also filed suit. The lawsuits were stalled when the Obama administration proposed rescinding the Bush rule in March 2009.

Today’s HHS rule can be seen at: www.ofr.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2011-03993_PI.pdf

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