Legislation / Court Cases

HHS Right of Conscience Regulations Reorganized & Challenged (19/29Dec08; update 20Jan09)

Health & Human Services Right of Conscience Regulations Reorganized and Promulgated.

To read the 127-page regs, visit
http://www.federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2008-30134_PI.pdf
(Doc. 2008-30134 Filed 12/18/2008 at 8:45 am; Publication Date: 12/19/2008)

 

[from AAPLOG] 

A final regulation protecting health care providers' conscience rights was
issued December 18.

The regulation clarifies and implements existing federal statutes enacted by Congress in 1973, 1996 and 2004. The Rule will be published in 19Dec08 Federal Register and will take effect 30 days after publication on January 20th, 2009 at 12:01AM (Note: the 20th is technically 32 days after publication, but Jan 18th is Sunday and Jan. 19th is a federal holiday).

AAPLOG thanks Secretary Michael Leavitt for implementing this regulation.

We urge the incoming Congress and Administration to honor this much-needed implementation of longstanding laws.

Respect for conscience rights on abortion should be a strong point of agreement among those considering themselves `pro-life' and `pro-choice.'

Yet this regulation is already under attack. A month before it was even published, pro-abortion senators had introduced a bill (S. 20) to invalidate it regardless of its content. They will surely follow through on this in any way they can.

As you will recall, HHS previously issued a draft of the regulations for public comment in August, 2008. 

 

The final regulations include HHS's response to those comments including two additions from earlier drafts – 1) HHS narrowed the number of entities who will need to provide specific certification to those with a direct connection to health care (for example an entity receiving HHS funds through LIHEAP would not need to provide certification since LIHEAP concerns energy assistance, not health care), and…

2) HHS encourages health care providers to engage in "full, open, and honest conversations about the services they request and provide."

A press release from HHS is available at: http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2008pres/12/20081218a.html

[18Dec08, www.AAPLOG.org] 

 

 

Report: Obama Team May Reverse Bush-Era Abortion Rules
President-elect Barack Obama's incoming administration has begun reviewing a Bush regulation that allows medical staff to refuse to participate in any practice they object to on moral grounds, including abortion but possibly birth control and other health care as well.
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2008/12/17/obama-team-reverse-bush-era-abortion-rules/

FOXNews.com, Wednesday, December 17, 2008
President-elect Barack Obama is looking to reverse a regulation being finalized this week by the outgoing Bush administration that allows health care providers to refuse participation in any practice they object to on moral grounds, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The regulation establishes a "right of conscience" that gives medical staff the right to refuse abortions and other health care as well.

The Obama team is reviewing a wide range of Bush measures, including other reproductive-health issues, environmental and labor rules and defense spending, that it plans to reverse, officials close to the transition told the newspaper.

The Obama team plans to take action on abortion and related matters early on through executive, regulatory, budgetary and legislative means.

The new administration will determine whether to cut funding for sexual abstinence programs; whether to increase funding for comprehensive sex education programs that include discussion of birth control; whether to allow federal health plans to pay for abortions; and whether to overturn regulations like the one that makes fetuses eligible for health care coverage under the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Click here to read The Wall Street Journal report, http://sec.online.wsj.com/article/SB122947155578512197.html
[PharmFacts E-News Update — 18 Dec 2008, Pharmacists for Life International]
 

 

Attorney Generals to Challenge President Bush's New Abortion Rules for Docs.  Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut says he will lead a fight against a federal rule issued by the Bush administration to protect doctors and medical facilities from being pressured to participate in abortions.

The rule enforces federal law protecting the conscience rights of medical professionals. 

Though the new regulations have nothing to do with birth control, Blumenthal is echoing the arguments from leading pro-abortion groups who claim its access will be adversely impacted by them. "I will fight this outrageous rule — the outgoing Bush Administration's latest and last swipe at women's health," he said in a statement LifeNews.com obtained. "This rule is an appalling insult and abuse — a midnight power grab to deny access to health care services and information, including even to victims of rape." 

Blumenthal led a 13-state coalition to fight the abortion rule before it was adopted, calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in formal comments to entirely abandon the Provider Conscience Regulation. 
He said he will resume working with pro-abortion officials in the other states to derail the pro-life protections for medical centers and staff — slated to take effect on January 20. "Our strong coalition of states will fight fiercely to block this reprehensible threat to hard-fought patient and victim rights," he said. 

State attorney generals from Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont joined Blumenthal in opposing the rule originally. 

Though Blumenthal characterizes the Bush administration's protections for doctors as an attack on birth control, others see it much differently. 

< span style="font-size: 10pt">HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said the right of federally funded health care providers to decline to participate in services to which they object, such as abortion, should be affirmed by federal law. "Over the past three decades, Congress enacted several statutes to safeguard the freedom of health care providers to practice according to their conscience. The new regulation will increase awareness of and compliance with these laws," Leavitt said.
 
"Doctors and other health care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience," Leavitt added. "This rule protects the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience." 

"While it would strengthen provider conscience rights, the regulation would in no way restrict health care providers from performing any legal service or procedure," he said correcting Blumenthal. 

Specifically, the rule clarifies that non-discrimination protections apply to institutional health care providers as well as to individual employees working for recipients of certain funds from HHS. 

It requires recipients of certain HHS funds to certify their compliance with laws protecting provider conscience rights and designates the HHS Office for Civil Rights as the entity to receive complaints of discrimination addressed by the existing statutes and the regulation. 

Though the rule takes effect next month, HHS components have been given discretion to phase in the written certification requirement by October 1, 2009. However, Blumenthal and his supporting AGs are expected to file suit against the rule. [29Dec08, Ertelt, www.LifeNews.com, DC] 

 

 

 20 January 2009

Lawsuit Launched to Quash Bush Administration’s Freedom of Conscience Regulation. An attempt to create protections for the conscience of physicians who object to abortion or other controversial procedures is being attacked by a lawsuit launched by the Attorney General’s office of Connecticut. Seven states (California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island) are participating in the suit to block the Bush Administration’s Provider Conscience Rule. 

The suit is being supported by the abortion lobby group National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA), represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. The office of Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Attorney General, said the suit is meant “to block an impending federal rule that gravely jeopardizes women's access to vital medical services, including birth control.”

The regulation is the last to be issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under George Bush’s administration and is set to come into effect January 20, the day of the inauguration of President Elect Barack Obama. The rule states that recipients of certain HHS funds must certify their compliance with already existing laws protecting provider conscience rights, or else risk losing their funding.

“Doctors and other health care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience,” HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said about the rule. “This rule protects the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience.”

However, Mary Jane Gallagher, NFPRHA President, charged that, “The Bush administration pushed through this rule as its parting shot against women's health.”

Judy Tabar, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Connecticut supported the move, saying that her organisation was proud to be “at the heart of events” in the abortion movement, “like the filing of today's litigation.”

Tabar added, “We are grateful for the friendship and vision of leaders like Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who never fails to remind us of Connecticut's special role in the history of the reproductive justice movement, and of the importance of acting swiftly to repel wrongheaded, hurtful public policy.”

But the Executive Director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person said the rule does “nothing more than to give force to the previous rules that were already on the books.” Father Thomas Berg pointed out that the regulation only enforces regulations that should already have been enforced. “Unfortunately, our culture coaxes us into a practice of not honoring the right to exercise conscience in health care.”

“We are being coaxed into a culture that allows new pressures on Catholic health care workers to comply with practices and services that are contrary to their conscience,” he said.

“The right to conscience, the right to follow conscience in healthcare is a bedrock, a foundational issue in the practice of medicine. Healthcare professionals must exercise fidelity to their conscience’s determination every day,” Fr. Berg told Catholic News Agency.

Office of the Attorney General of Connecticut:

55 Elm Street

Hartford, Connecticut
06106
Phone:(860) 808-5318
Fax: (860) 808-5387

Read related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:

Outgoing Bush Administration Enacts Conscience Protection for Pro-Life Health Care Workers – Can Refuse to Participate in Abortion
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/dec/08121808.html
[19Jan09, Hilary White, www.LifeSiteNews.com]