Action Alert: Tell Leavitt that the “conscience clause” is unconscionable

Update: The regulations were formally proposed by the Health and Human Services Department. The Secular Coalition and our issue allies will be sending comments to the Federal Register regarding these regulations. An Action Alert with information on how to sumit comments on these regulations will be sent out in early September.

President Bush and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt have colluded to allow medical professionals—from ambulance drivers to pharmacists—to refuse to provide care for people who seek services they find religiously objectionable.

Already, a “conscience clause” exists in federal law that allows a medical professional to opt out of performing a procedure or delivering a product if it violates his/her “conscience.”  But now, the “conscience clause” is taken a step further and jeopardizes any woman’s ability to get complete and accurate information and services.
For example, the expanded definition of the conscience clause means that a health care center employee opposed to the provision of birth control who was hired to schedule patient appointments could refuse to schedule patients seeking those services. 
Medical professionals (whether they are doctors, pharmacists, technicians, or emergency medical technicians) are employed in the field of medicine, not spirituality. They have the right to consider their own religious beliefs in determining what medical decisions they make for their own care, but their personal religion should never infringe on the right of a patient to seek products or procedures that they have a legal right to obtain.


The new regulations proposed by the Bush administration deliberately confuse the definitions of contraception and abortion, which also make it more difficult for women to obtain birth control. The new regulations change the definition of “abortion” from the standard definition offered by the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to one that is scientifically inaccurate and not endorsed by any leading medical associations or institutions.  

The consequences for this policy being enacted are grave, and include: 
•    Health care corporations (hospitals, HMOs and health plans) could refuse to provide services or make referrals for birth control.
•    Staff at clinics or health-care plans that contract for Medicaid services could refuse to provide contraception or information about contraception. 
•    Family planning groups, like Planned Parenthood, as well as researchers, clinics, medical schools, and hospitals, would be forced to employ people who object to abortion or certain contraception or they will be denied federal funding. 

While the Secular Coalition takes no official position on abortion, we oppose the Bush administration’s attempt to redefine abortion to include some of the most common and effective methods of birth control and its attempt to promote medically unsound definitions of “pregnancy” and “abortion.” 

While laws in 16 states ensure that women who are raped and visit a hospital emergency room are offered emergency contraception or information on emergency contraception, the proposed HHS regulation would allow certain hospitals or employees in all states simply to opt-out of providing this crucial women's health option based on the re-definition of emergency contraception as abortion.

This proposed regulation also impacts Medicaid, the Maternal Child Health, and other publicly funded programs. 


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