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Proposed Health and Human Services Regulation Threatens Women’s Healthcare Access

Women’s access to contraception and health care would be seriously threatened if draft regulations, released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, are enacted.

The new regulations (see PDF) are justified in the draft with the following rationale: “Despite the fact that several conscience statutes protecting health care entities from discrimination have been in existence for decades, the Department is concerned that the public and many health care providers are largely uninformed of the protections afforded to individuals and institutions under these provisions. This lack of knowledge within the health professions can be detrimental to conscience and other rights, particularly for individuals and entities with moral objections to abortion and other medical procedures.”

The draft states that the “regulation does not limit patient access to health care, but rather protects any individual health care provider or institution from being compelled to participate in, or from being punished for refusal to participate in, a service that, for example, violates their conscience.” The provisions of the regulation, however, would place an undue 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 that the regulations would “set the stage for women being denied access to healthcare, women being denied information…and women even being denied referrals.”

Provisions of an earlier draft (see PDF) have been deleted that would have redefined abortion as “any of the various procedures – including the prescription and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action – that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation.” The previous version would have falsely labeled several types of birth control, including IUDs, the pill and emergency contraception as abortion.

Sources:

HHS Draft Regulation via RH Reality Check; HHS Draft Regulation 8/21/08; Reuters 8/21/08; Feminist Daily Newswire 7/16/08