Top Five Reasons You Should Protest New HHS Regulations

David Castillo

New HHS regulations will do nothing to contribute to the universal goal of reducing the number of unintended pregnancies.

A firestorm of criticism erupted after
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Michael Leavitt proposed a new health care refusal regulation that could create
serious barriers to publicly funded family planning services for the
women and men most in need. Below, the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association has outlined the top five reasons why you should protest the new regulations. 

The public has been given 30 days to respond to the new regulations;  the deadline to submit those comments is this Thursday,
September 25. 

It is imperative that as many people
as possible send their comments to HHS to make it known that these regulations
must not become law and that family planning must be protected.

Our top five list of objections, offered below, should provide you some inspiration as you begin
to draft your own comments.  Pass this inspiration on to your friends
and neighbors and be sure to get your comments in by Thursday evening. 
A flood of comments from the general public can change the minds of our leaders — and it is the most direct way to participate
in the creation of the policies that affect us all. 

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1. These new regulations could allow community health centers, hospitals
and individuals to refuse to provide family planning counseling and
contraception all in the name of moral objections.

insists that these regulations are about protecting the "conscience
rights" of providers, but it’s clear that this justification is
just a ruse to continue the war on contraception, which 90 percent of
Americans use to be sexually responsible and raise families. These
regulations are unnecessary, as there are already laws on the books that
balance provider protections with patient’s rights. Indeed, this rule
appears to extract the health care needs from the equation altogether. 

2. The definition of who may refuse
service and what falls under the "service" category appears to have
been broadened and could include even the most basic information, counseling
on contraception and referral for important health care services.

now, an individual who walks into a health center goes in with the understanding
and guarantee that they will receive access to the services they need
or at the very least information. This includes access to various types
of contraception. Under this proposed rule, however, that same individual
will go in to their health center with no such guarantee and could be
subject to the individual political whims and ideology of their provider.

3. This rule does nothing to contribute to the universal goal of
reducing the number of unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion.  

state and federal programs have actually increased access to family
planning. Bush’s rule essentially negates these successful policies,
which have reduced unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion.
Such state and federal laws have helped lawmakers achieve those feats
because they provide for services such as counseling and contraception. 

4. The proposed rule completely ignores the existing framework of patient
protections found in federal law.

federal laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, create
a robust legal framework for balancing the rights of health care providers
to exercise their religious and moral beliefs with the needs of patients
to access crucial health care services, including family planning. The
proposed rules make no mention of this existing legal framework, a telling
and disturbing silence.   

5. Publicly funded family planning health centers actually save
money and are successful.

a time when insurance costs are skyrocketing and the numbers of the
uninsured are increasing, it seems highly irresponsible to propose a
rule change that would actually hamper successful programs. A recent
Guttmacher Institute report shows that for every dollar spent nationally
on publicly funded family planning health centers, $4.02 is saved in
pregnancy-related and newborn costs to Medicaid. 

This proposed rule is an affront to Americans everywhere and the administration’s
rationale for it, to protect "conscience rights," is at once cynical
and transparent. Instead of serving the needs of the far right fundamentalists,
the federal government should be looking for ways to build upon our
public health system, not destroy it. This rule is a strategic part
of a war currently being waged on contraception in America. Secretary
Leavitt and President Bush have not proposed a refusal clause; they’ve begun
an unconscionable war against mainstream America’s support for family
planning and contraception. 

So get your comments in and make sure
your voice is heard at HHS today. Go to and search for
docket ID "HHS-OS-2008-0011" to leave your comments online.

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