Another Back Hand Swipe at Women

In the waning days of his administration, President Bush is attempting to push through several policies that will hurt women. One of them, the “right of conscience” proposal allows doctors, nurses and other health care officials to refuse to participate in any procedure they consider morally or religiously objectionable. Administration officials say the rule allows Christians to say “no” to procedures like abortion. You can read the press release here.

This is not a new policy. It has been around in some form since the 70's. What is new is that this new wording in the proposed regulation is drawn broad enough to include artificial insemination and birth control procedures. In other words if a pharmacist does not want to fill a prescription for birth control pills for a married woman, he is not required to do so. Similarly, if a doctor has a problem with lesbianism, he can refuse to artificially inseminate a couple if they come in trying to have a child.

This rule also increases the number of health care workers covered, meaning that a person whose only job is to clean the medical instruments used in a procedure can opt not to do his job if that procedure offends him morally or religiously.

The Bush plan, according to reports, is to get the measure on the books by December 20th. It will apply to any facility or hospital receiving federal funds.

The American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association are already on record as opposing the new language of this proposal stating that the rule could compromise and does politicize women’s health.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology
issued a statement calling for limits on the so called “moral objections “ clause..

“Although respect for conscience is important, conscientious refusals should be limited if they constitute an imposition of religious or moral beliefs on patients [or] negatively affect a patient's health," ACOG's Committee on Ethics said. It also said physicians have a "duty to refer patients in a timely manner to other providers if they do not feel that they can in conscience provide the standard reproductive services that patients request.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt says the issue is solely focused on abortion and he will issue the new order before the December 20th deadline.

Enactment of the proposal by the deadline will tie President elect Obama’s hands and will mean that Congress will have to act to rescind the order.
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