While current law already protects the religious beliefs of health care providers and professionals, the Bush Administration’s Health and Human Services issued a ‘refusal clause’ rule today that is so broad it could limit women’s access to comprehensive health care and other services.
In issuing this midnight regulation, the Bush Administration has once again rejected medical and sound science in favor of misguided ideology that has no place in our government. The Administration has ignored the opposition of the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Hospital Association, Members of Congress, and hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens and practitioners who made their informed views known to Health and Human Services.
Make no mistake: this is a direct assault on women's health care and may jeopardize patients' rights to receive quality, comprehensive health care services. Congress will work with President-elect Obama to reverse this rule.
Reps. Slaughter and DeGette Blast Administration on “Refusal Clause” Rule:
House Pro-Choice Caucus Co-Chairs Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) today slammed the Bush Administration on their last minute attempt to put ideology before science with the HHS “Refusal Clause” regulation. This rule would permit all healthcare workers to refuse to participate in any procedure they find morally objectionable.
“Eight long years of trouncing on women's reproductive rights and playing politics with science has obviously not been enough for this Administration,” said Rep. Slaughter, Chairwoman of the House Committee on Rules and Co-Chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. “As its parting gift to women across the country, the Administration has pushed this midnight regulation through the approval process. This sweeping rule goes beyond a woman's right to choose, beyond a woman's right to contraception and puts every American's access to health care at risk.”
“The Bush Administration continues to pursue its extreme ideology over sound public health policies,” said Rep. DeGette, Vice Chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and Co-Chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. “This dangerous and misguided rule would restrict access to vital health services and create chaos for health care providers. It is the wrong direction for health care policy in America.”
The rule that the Bush Administration has proposed through the Health and Human Services Agency, referred to as the Refusal Clause, was published in the Federal Register Public Inspection List today. The Administration is expected to officially implement this regulation by 5:00PM tomorrow in order to ensure that the rule will go into effect, after the required thirty day waiting period, on January 20 before President-Elect Obama is sworn in. Congressional approval is not needed for enactment. This regulation means that our health care system will face changes that threaten access to quality health care for all Americans.
Similar regulations regarding reproductive health care that currently exist permit providers of health care not to provide certain medical services for religious reasons or conscience. Those who choose not to provide services may not be disciplined or discriminated against. The new rule would go further by covering all healthcare workers and would enable them to not only refuse to provide care to patients, but it would also allow them to refuse to provide information or advice.
“As we continue to fight the Bush Administration until its bitter end, I will work with the new Congress and the next Administration to determine the best course of action moving forward. This ill conceived and unnecessary proposed rule dangerously puts politics and ideology before quality health care for the American people,” said Rep. Slaughter said.
“On its way out the door, the Bush Administration has, once again, stubbornly and irresponsibly attacked Americans' access to health care,” said Rep. DeGette.
U.S. Reps. Slaughter and DeGette, co-chairs of the Pro-Choice Caucus, have held a hard line against this regulation beginning with a letter signed by 124 other Members of Congress to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in late September opposing the Refusal Clause. In addition, Slaughter and DeGette proposed legislation at the end of the 110th Congress that would prohibit HHS from implementing the rule which did not come to the floor before the end of this Congress.