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The Bush Administration is trying to push through last minute new regulations for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would allow health care providers to refuse to perform abortions or refer women to others who might.  

These new "regulations" would prevent family planning clinics from "discriminating" against employees who are opposed to abortion on "religious or moral grounds," even if they're working at an abortion clinic, and even if they believe birth control is abortion. Additionally, they would also allow pharmacists to refuse birth control to Medicaid recipients and literally undo state laws that require hospitals to dispense EC to rape survivors.

The Ohio Health Department said the rule “could force family planning providers to hire employees who may refuse to do their jobs”

Yesterday from the NYTimes

A last-minute Bush administration plan to grant sweeping new protections to health care providers who oppose abortion and other procedures on religious or moral grounds has provoked a torrent of objections, including a strenuous protest from the government agency that enforces job discrimination laws.

The proposed rule would prohibit recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to perform or to assist in the performance of abortions or sterilization procedures because of their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.” It would also prevent hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices and drugstores from requiring employees with religious or moral objections to “assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity” financed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

But three officials from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including its legal counsel, whom President Bush appointed, said the proposal would overturn 40 years of civil rights law prohibiting job discrimination based on religion.

Despite the 200,000 plus comments sent to HHS opposing the new regulations, as well as the opposition of the national association of chain drug stores, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, 28 senators, more than 110 representatives, President-elect Obama and the attorneys general of 13 states, the Bush administration still plans to push the new rules through in the next few days. You can read the new rules here.

Pharmacies said the rule would allow their employees to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives and could “lead to Medicaid patients being turned away.” State officials said the rule could void state laws that require insurance plans to cover contraceptives and require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims.

A joint letter by Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights stated "this ill-conceived, last-minute regulation could have a dramatic negative effect on the delivery of basic healthcare to women." And demanded that Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) uphold the Bolten directive to stop last-minute regulations.  The Bush administration has evoked "extraordinary circumstances" and put these regulations on the fast track, with a shortened 30-day public comment period and no public hearing.  

Planned Parenthood has a petition asking the Bush Adminstration to stop its efforts to redefine abortion to include birth control here.

Personally, I doubt the effectiveness of a petition in this instance so I thought perhaps we could write the OIRA ourselves.

Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW  
Washington, DC 20503
Fax: (202) 395-3047

Originally posted to Nazakhstan on Tue Nov 18, 2008 at 12:24 PM PST.

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