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Roadblocks hit Health and Human Services Regulation that Threatens Women’s Healthcare Access

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel halted the publication of Bush administration regulations Tuesday, including regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that threaten women’s access to contraception and comprehensive health care that were scheduled to go into effect that day. In a memo, Emmanuel said that “no proposed or final regulation should be sent to the Offices of the Federal Register…for publication until it has been reviewed and approved by a department or agency head,” according to The Hill.

Last week, seven states filed a lawsuit that challenges the rule (see PDF) as unconstitutional, according to the Associated Press. Lawsuits were also filed last week challenging the regulations by the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Planned Parenthood of Connecticut.

The regulation in question establishes new protections for health care providers who refuse to provide certain services based on moral or religious bases. 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 December statement that the Bush “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:

Daily Newswire 9/26/08, 8/22/08, 12/19/08; Planetwire 1/15/09; The Hill 1/21/09; Associated Press 1/15/09