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Final Regulation Issued by Health and Human Services Threatens Women’s Healthcare Access

Regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that threaten women’s access to contraception and comprehensive health care were released in their final version yesterday. The regulation establishes new protections for health care providers who refuse to provide certain services based on moral or religious bases. The text is largely unchanged in comparison to the most recent publicly available draft and goes into effect in 30 days, according to HHS. According to RH Reality Check, the only major change from previous drafts is an expansion of the providers it applies to, which now includes contractors.

The provisions of the regulation place the burden on women to seek out individual providers who will provide certain kinds of treatment, including abortion and sterilization. Roger Evans, Director of Litigation at Planned Parenthood told Reuters this summer that the regulations would “set the stage for women being denied access to healthcare, women being denied information…and women even being denied referrals.”

President of the National Partnership for Women & Families Debra L. Ness said in a statement yesterday that the current “Administration put in place the final piece of [their] shameful legacy by finalizing ill-conceived, unnecessary, dangerous regulations that dramatically undermine access to reproductive health care services. In doing so, it ignored an avalanche of comments from the medical, legal, women’s and other communities—and from its own EEOC urging a stop to these regulations.”

A draft of the regulations was leaked this past summer, drawing widespread protest. During a month-long public commenting period, HHS received tens of thousands of comments against the regulations, including letters opposing it from at least thirteen state attorney generals (see PDF) and six medical groups (see PDF).

Sources:

National Partnership for Women & Families 12/18/08; Feminist Daily Newswire 9/26/08, 8/22/08; Reuters 8/21/08; RH Reality Check 12/18/08; US Department of Health and Human Services 12/18/08

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