Bush’s Parting Shot Undermines Health Care

Cecile Richards and Timothy E. Wirth

Under HHS's new rule, doctors and health care workers of all kinds can deny patients vital health care information and services, without the patient even knowing.

Very little about the Bush administration could surprise me anymore,
but I was completely disheartened when — despite the written
opposition from more than 200,000 Americans, 150 members of Congress, a
bipartisan coalition of governors and attorneys general, the American
Medical Association, and women’s health organizations like Planned
Parenthood — the Department of Health and Human Services issued a last minute regulation that will undermine health care access at nearly 600,000 pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals across the country.

This sort of "take the drapes on your way out" approach is the final
chapter of an administration that has prized political ideology over
health care for their entire eight years — and the rule issued
yesterday, with little more than 30 days left in office, is the
ultimate holiday gift to the extreme right.

Under this new rule, doctors and health care workers of all kinds
can deny patients vital health care information and services, without
the patient even knowing. No patient is exempt from the reach of this
rule: sexual assault victims could be denied information about
emergency contraception that could prevent unintended pregnancy, moms
hoping to time their pregnancies can be denied contraception at their
local pharmacy, young adults hoping to be tested for sexually
transmitted infections could be denied treatment by health care
employees who oppose premarital sex.

In short, this rule is likely to create total chaos in an already
stressed health care system, and for low-income women and families,
this rule may spell the end of the few available health care options.
Essentially, any patient that utilizes health care at a provider that
receives any federal funds will be subject to the luck of the draw in
terms of what kinds of reproductive health care they are offered. This
might seem far-fetched, until you realize that groups like Pharmacists
for Life have campaigned nationally to have pharmacies refuse to
provide women birth control prescribed by their physician.

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If you had any doubt that this rule is about politics, not health
care, just watch the high-fives among the far right. "This is a huge
victory for religious freedom and the First Amendment," said Tony
Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

The bottom line in health care has always been that patients’ health
comes first; this regulation turns that basic tenet on its head. In
fact, they failed to address the basic questions of patients’ rights
lodged by hundreds of thousands of Americans during that period.

For months, Planned Parenthood has spoken out against the proposed
regulation. When a draft version of the rule was leaked last summer, we
were the first out of the gate to point out the damage this regulation
could do to women’s health care. And, in the days and weeks to come, we
will work with the new administration and Congress to overturn this
disastrous rule. Our goal has always been to expand — not limit —
patients’ access to full health care information and services. If you
want to help, please sign our petition.

And count your blessings that this administration is almost finished.

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