You know that potential DHHS rule that pro-choice organizations and feminists have been going on about for a month now? The one that says organizations which receive government funding cannot discriminate against those who choose to exercise their “conscience” on matters of abortion — and redefines “abortion” to cover hormonal contraception?
Leavitt said the regulation was intended to protect practitioners who have moral objections to abortion and sterilization, and would not interfere with patients’ ability to get birth control or any legal medical procedure.
“Nothing in the new regulation in any way changes a patient’s right to any legal procedure,” he said, noting that a patient could go to another provider.
“This regulation is not about contraception,” Leavitt added. “It’s about abortion and conscience. It is very closely focused on abortion and physician’s conscience.”
The 42-page rule seeks to set up a system for enforcing conscience protections in three separate federal laws, the earliest of which dates to the 1970s. In some cases, the laws aim to protect both providers who refuse to take part in abortions and those who do.
The regulation is written to apply to a broad swath of the health care work force, not doctors alone. Accordingly, an employee whose task it is to clean the instruments used in a particular procedure would be covered. Also covered would be volunteers and trainees.
The underlying laws deal mainly with abortion and sterilization, but both the laws and the language of the rule seem to recognize that objections on conscience grounds could involve other types of services.
“This regulation does not limit patient access to health care, but rather protects any individual health care provider or institution from being compelled to participate in, or from being punished for refusal to participate in, a service that, for example, violates their conscience,” the rule said.
Reading this, there are two key things that you need to understand. The first is that despite Leavitt and other anti-choice puppet’s proclamations, this will limit women’s access to reproductive health care. The denials reek of classism. You see, barring some unforeseen circumstances, I’ll be fine. Those of us who happen to have insurance and private doctors, this will rarely affect us. But those of us who lack insurance? Many who are low-income? These are the people who generally use services that are government funded, and they are the ones who will be affected. The only people who will have less access to health care as a result of this rule the are people who already have the least access to health care. Despite Leavitt’s disgusting rationalizations, not everyone has the access to transportation, child care, money and time to “go to another provider.” That is, in fact, quite a privilege.
The second thing is that many, many, if not most reproductive health centers in the U.S. receive government funding. That includes many organizations which provide abortions, which may be the only abortion provider in a given area, and already work on a strict budget. And under this rule, these organizations would not be able to fire a person for refusing to do their job.
The regulation now faces a 30-day “public comment period.” In other words, there is now 30 days to fight it. Planned Parenthood Federation of America is sending out a mass request for donations to help them fight the rule. Their email is actually how I heard the news. Now, I know that it’s an election year, that people are therefore facing donation fatigue and that the economy is in the shitter. Lord knows that I can’t afford to give anything to anyone at the moment. But if you are able to give, do consider it.
UPDATE: If you have not already, you can also write to your legislator letting them know you oppose the rule and encouraging them to help fight it. I’m as of yet unsure where the general public can comment about the proposal — if you find that info, let me know and I’ll add it.
UPDATE 2: To comment on the regulation, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Specify the subject as “provider conscience regulation.” Know that all comments will be available for public viewing in their entirety. Here is the full content of the proposed regulation (pdf) — for other methods of comment, see page 2. (Thank you, MB!)