Attorneys General Oppose HHS Refusal Clause Ruling

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Attorneys General Oppose HHS Refusal Clause Ruling

Scott Swenson

The opposition to proposed rules denying patient conscience rights continues to increase as the deadline approaches.

Waves of opposition are crashing around Secretary Michael Leavitt’s lame duck ideological gambit. Today 13 states’ attorneys general submitted a letter opposing HHS’s proposed rule change denying patient conscience rights and allowing the ideology of individual medical staff to trump actual medical facts and science. The last ditch effort by ideologues within the Bush Administration has been resoundingly repudiated during the 30 day public comment period, coming to a close this Thursday.

The Associated Press reports:

"It threatens to drastically discourage and even deter a woman’s
right to choose," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said.
"This proposed rule unconscionably puts personal agendas before patient
care … failing even to acknowledge the rights of rape victims and
others to access birth control and related vital health services."

states joining Connecticut in protesting the rule are Arizona,
Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey,
Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont.

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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The Bush administration
proposed the rule last month. The rule, which applies to institutions
receiving government money, would require as many as 584,000 employers
ranging from major hospitals to doctors’ offices and nursing homes to
certify in writing that they are complying with several federal laws
that protect the conscience rights of health care workers. Violations
could lead to a loss of government funding and legal action to recoup
federal money already paid.


Concerns about HHS have been expressed here on Rewire by many experts in the field of sexual and reproductive health. The AP says that the letter from the attorneys general mentioned similar concerns, especially the rulings impact on access to contraception.

In the letter, the attorneys general said the rule threatens federal
funding for institutions that provide health care and birth control to
rape victims.

"Vagueness and broad application, together with the
penalty of withdrawal of critical federal health care funding to a
health care entity that violates — even inadvertently — the proposed
regulation may have substantial and significant consequences for the
provision of health care to many Americans," the officials said in the