After two years of struggling to balance the rights of patients against the beliefs of health-care workers, the Obama administration on Friday finally rescinded most of a federal regulation designed to protect those who refuse to provide care they find objectionable on moral or religious grounds.This article, like the administration's new regulation, asserts a raft of undocumented allegations as facts. The well-considered conscience protection regulation had been in effect for over two years. Yet opponents could come up with no evidence whatsoever to back up their wild assertions that it "threatens the health and well-being of women and the rights of patients across the country" (Hillary Clinton) or "is going to cause chaos among providers across the country" (Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood Federation of America).
The decision guts one of President George W. Bush's most controversial legacies: a rule that was widely interpreted as shielding workers who refuse to participate in a range of medical services, such as providing birth control pills, caring for gay men with AIDS and performing in-vitro fertilization for lesbians or single women.
Friday's move was seen as an important step in countering that trend, which in recent years had led pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for the emergency contraceptive Plan B, doctors in California to reject a lesbian's request for infertility treatment, and an ambulance driver in Chicago to turn away a woman who needed transportation for an abortion.
"Without the rescission of this regulation, we would see tremendous discrimination against patients based on their behavior and based just on who they are," said Susan Berke Fogel of the National Health Law Program, an advocacy group based in the District. "We would see real people suffer, and more women could die."
The new rule leaves intact only long-standing "conscience" protections for doctors and nurses who do not want to perform abortions or sterilizations. It also retains the process for allowing health workers whose rights are violated to file complaints.
Friday's decision was condemned by proponents of stronger protections, who say doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other workers regularly face discrimination, firing and other punitive measures because of their deeply held convictions.
"Any weakening of conscience protections opens the door that much further to discrimination against life-affirming health-care professionals and institutions," said Jonathan Imbody, Vice President for Government Relations at the Christian Medical Association. "With many areas already facing critical shortages of professionals and institutions, this is no time to be risking the further loss of health-care access for poor patients." The new rule, which goes into effect in 30 days, is likely to fuel the intensifying debate over abortion and related issues. House Republicans have introduced several pieces of legislation containing provisions that would replicate many of the effects of the Bush rule. Read full article.
Where is the evidence for healthcare professionals refusing "caring for gay men with AIDS"? Faith-based healthcare professionals are among the leaders in caring for AIDS patients. Where is the evidence for any "discrimination against patients ... based just on who they are"?
This administration promised to "restore science to its rightful place," but now it's writing far-reaching regulations based on no evidence. The administration presents no evidence of any hindrance of patient access to health care, prescriptions or procedures. In the absence of evidence, this rule appears to have been written solely to accommodate the ideology and rhetoric of abortion advocates.
The only recourse we have until the next election is to pass laws protecting conscience and prohibiting discrimination in health care. I trust you will take action today
Action: Read the Freedom2Care blog, "Pro-life bills introduced in Congress - a quick summary" and contact your Representative to urge his or her support of the conscience-protecting bills.