Medical professions are saying “thanks, but no thanks” to the Bush administration’s proposed regulations allowing health care workers to opt-out of providing abortion and contraceptive services.
Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt has argued that the new rule is necessary to protect the “freedom of expression and action” of medical professionals, but medical professionals disagree. The American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics say that “doctors and nurses are already not required to perform abortions or sterilizations.”
Indeed, the proposed regulation would be redundant if it weren’t so expansive. By using an “opinion put forth several months ago by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists” as pretext to issue new regulations, Leavitt is potentially expanding the existing conscience exemption. Medical professionals have expressed concern about the consequences of the new rule:
Implementation of this regulation would effectively allow health care providers’ personal beliefs to override patients’ right to full disclosure of accurate information and available health care resources.
Similarly, in a separate letter to the HHS, 13 attorneys general argued that “the rule was too vague about what health care procedures may be withheld”:
The proposed regulation completely obliterates the rights of patients to legal and medically necessary health care services in favor of a single-minded focus on protecting a health care provider’s right to claim a personal moral or religious belief.
For the Bush administration, the new regulation is a bridge to limiting women’s access to reproductive services. They hope to muddy the waters and threaten “both the diversity of beliefs in our pluralistic society and the health and well-being of patients seeking care.”
UPDATE: Time is running out but there’s still a chance to act. You can submit comments on the regulation here or by emailing your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by 11:59 pm EDT Thursday, September 25th.