Bush Bait and Switch

Administration continues to blatantly discriminate against women

While we were paying attention to the peripheral bull* surrounding the auto industry bailout and the hoopla surrounding Obama’s inaugural invocation choice, Dubya and company tried to slip another one past us.

With no fanfare, the outgoing administration quietly put into place a sweeping new law designed to protect health care workers who refuse to provide services that they say violates their personal beliefs. Click here to read a summary of the rule.

The new regulation cuts off federal funding for any state or local government, hospital, health plan, clinic or other entity that does not accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other employees who refuse to participate in care they find ethically, morally or religiously objectionable. The measure was championed by conservatives, abortion opponents, and others who want to protect and safeguard workers from discipline or other sanctions, who refuse to do their jobs. Those in favor of the new law say that all it does is to protect the civil rights of health care workers and to stop religious discrimination.

The 127 page “right of conscience rule”, was issued just in time to take effect in the 30 days before regime change in Washington on January 20th. Women’s rights advocates, pro choice groups and many members of congress have condemned the measure by saying it hinders, women’s health services, including infertility treatments, birth control services, end of life services, and halts many areas of scientific research.

The Obama administration is reportedly already looking at all of the “eleventh hour” laws that Bush is putting into place. The new administration says it is working on just how to repeal these measures.

Two senators, one of them Hillary Clinton, have already introduced legislation to repeal this law. It is pending in Congress, now. The proposed repeal law also has many opponents who say they will work to keep Bush’s regulation in place.

The rule, which will cost more than $44 million to put into place, gives more than 584,000 health-care organizations until October, 2009 to provide written certification of their compliance. Those who don’t will have their funding cut off or be required to return funding they have received.

Officials at hospitals and clinics predict the regulation will cause chaos, forcing family planning centers and fertility clinics, as an example, to hire workers, even if those workers oppose abortions or in vitro fertilization procedures that can destroy embryos.

The new rule also goes so far as to prevent or make it difficult for states to enforce laws allowing hospitals to administer the “morning after pill” when a woman has been raped or sexually assaulted, according to officials who have read the regulation.

Bush’s Health and Human Services secretary, Mike Leavitt, who issued the new rule, initially said the regulation was intended primarily to protect workers who object to abortion. But the final rule, has a much, much bigger affect. It also protects workers who do not wish to dispense birth control pills, Plan B emergency contraceptives and other forms of contraception they consider equivalent to abortion. Nor do they have to tell patients where they might go to obtain such care. The rule could also protect workers who object to certain types of end-of-life care or to withdrawing care, or even perhaps providing care to unmarried people or gay men and lesbians.

This new regulation was primarily aimed at doctors and nurses. However, in it’s final form, it offers protection to anyone with a so called "reasonable" connection to objectionable care – In other words, the ultrasound technicians, the nurses aides, the secretaries and even the janitor who might have to clean equipment used in procedures, can refuse to do their job if they feel that their religious and moral rights were violated.
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