Blocking Care for Women
By HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON and CECILE RICHARDS, New York Times, September 19, 2008
LAST month, the Bush administration launched the latest salvo in its eight-year campaign to undermine women's rights and women's health by placing ideology ahead of science: a proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that would govern family planning. It would require that any health care entity that receives federal financing - whether it's a physician in private practice, a hospital or a state government - certify in writing that none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable.
Laws that have been on the books for some 30 years already allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further, ensuring that all employees and volunteers for health care entities can refuse to aid in providing any treatment they object to, which could include not only abortion and sterilization but also contraception.
(...)The rule would also allow providers to refuse to participate in unspecified "other medical procedures" that contradict their religious beliefs or moral convictions. (...) Could physicians object to helping patients whose sexual orientation they find objectionable? Could a receptionist refuse to book an appointment for an H.I.V. test? What about an emergency room doctor who wishes to deny emergency contraception to a rape victim? Or a pharmacist who prefers not to refill a birth control prescription?
The Bush administration argues that the rule is designed to protect a provider's conscience. But where are the protections for patients? (...)
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