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Obama to undo Bush 'conscience' rule for health providers

The fundies aren’t steering the ship anymore; no more hiding behind your beliefs when your job is to provide health services to the public, as Obama moves to undo one of Bush’s last acts before vacating. Oh, so sad…NOT. (NYT):

The Department of Health and Human Services served notice on Friday, through a message to the White House Office of Management and Budget, that it intends to rescind the regulation, which was originally announced on Dec. 19, 2008, and took effect on the day President Obama took office.

…The rule prohibits recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to perform or assist in abortions or sterilization procedures because of their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.” Its supporters included the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals.

In praising the Bush administration last fall, Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, said that in recent years “we have seen a variety of efforts to force Catholic and other health care providers to perform or refer for abortions and sterilizations.”

But opponents of the regulation, including the American Medical Association, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and Planned Parenthood, said it could have voided state laws requiring insurance plans to cover contraceptives and requiring hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims. It could also allow drugstore employees to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives, critics of the regulation have said.

Moreover, opponents of the regulation have said, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already offers broad protection against discrimination based on religion, spelling out that an employer must make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s practices and beliefs.

There will be a 30-day period for public comment once the  administration publishes official notice of its intent to repeal. It is expected to start next week.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding