The facts on the “conscience clause”
It’s being reported that President Obama will revoke a midnight-hour Bush administration Health and Human Services rule change. The so-called “conscience clause” is a federal protection (issued in December and implemented in January) to health-care workers who refuse to provide care that violates their personal, moral or religious beliefs.
One of many problems with this poorly-written “conscience clause” is confusion about its scope: the vagueness of the rule could lead it to limiting everything from HIV tests to blood transfusions to emergency contraception for rape victims
Problems with the rule change had already begun cropping up. Two alarming examples from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology:
In one, a Virginia mother of two became pregnant because she was denied emergency contraception. In another, a rape victim in Texas had her prescription for emergency contraception rejected by a pharmacist.
While some on the right are claiming this a rabid pro-choice move, we beg to differ.
First of all, revisiting the Bush “conscience clause” rule does NOT mean that providers who object to performing abortions will have to provide them. No provider will have to perform abortions against their will. There is a 30-year history of legislation (three separate laws in fact) that protects such providers. (Someone needs to tell FRC, since Tony Perkins thinks “…President Obama is planning to bow down to pro-abortion forces [to] stop enforcement of laws enacted to protect the choice of healthcare providers not to participate in abortion.”)
The “conscience clause” is not only vague and potentially harmful to patients, but it also undermines the goal of reducing abortions because it potentially blocks women’s access to services like birth control. Consider: 98% of women of child-bearing age, who have ever had sexual intercourse, have used some form of contraception. Obviously, contraception is key to preventing unintended pregnancies. Preventing access to contraception runs counter to the Obama administration’s clearly stated goal of preventing unintended pregnancies and reducing abortions.
Also important to note: HHS is holding a 30-day comment period, open to the public. The Obama Administration is concerned about the consequences of the scope of the Bush “conscience clause,” but they also understand the need to clarify the existing rules and want to fully understand and address the concerns of providers.