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Get Rid of Bush's Last-Minute HHS Regulation | The Nation

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Katha Pollitt

Katha Pollitt

Politics, feminism, culture, books and daily life.

Get Rid of Bush's Last-Minute HHS Regulation

Thursday, April 9th, is the deadline for comments on the proposed rescission of the Bush administration's last-minute HHS regulation expanding provider "conscience" clauses to allow just about any health worker to deny contraceptive services to women. Under this vague, confusing rule, a pharmacist could refuse to fill a birth-control prescription, and also refuse to get another pharmacist to do so. A nurse could refuse to give emergency contraception to a rape victim, and give her a lecture about "babykilling." Abortion clinics would be forced to hire, and retain, personnel who refused to carry out the very duties they were hired to perform. Nor does the regulation stop there. Conceivably, a health-care worker could refuse to care for a gay, lesbian or transsexual person, on the grounds that to do so would violate their religious beliefs.

The law already provides "reasonable accomodation" for religious beliefs, by the way. This regulation is just President Bush's farewell gift to the religious right. It only takes a few minutes to encourage President Obama to return that gift to the store.

(Thanks to intrepid reporter Cynthia Cooper for the heads up.)

1) Go to this site:  http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=SubmitComment&o=090000648090229f  

2) Sample letter from the Center for Reproductive Rights -- I am writing to support the "Rescission Proposal" to repeal the Provider Conscience Regulation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services in December.

The regulation unnecessarily expands the current laws protecting healthcare workers at the expense of women's access to healthcare. The regulation creates uncertainty that could allow healthcare providers to deny access to contraceptive services by equating them with abortion. In addition, it allows providers to deny women the information necessary to provide informed–consent for their healthcare.Undoubtedly, the women who are hit the hardest by these regulations are the most vulnerable in our society. Many low–income women rely on federally–funded hospitals and clinics and cannot afford to shop around for healthcare providers. By expanding both the types of workers who can refuse services, and the range of services which can be denied, the government is restricting access to health services for those who already face significant barriers in accessing basic healthcare.

I ask that you rescind this unnecessary regulation which only exacerbates the lack of affordable healthcare for women in this country.

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