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U.S. News

Rule Shields Health Workers Who Withhold Care Based on Beliefs

December 23, 2008

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced broad new protections for health workers who refuse to participate in care they find ethically, morally or religiously objectionable. The ruling takes effect in 30 days, just before the change in administrations. It cuts federal funding to any entity that does not accommodate those exercising their "right of conscience." Certification verifying compliance is required of more than 584,000 health care organizations by Oct. 1, 2009. Implementing the rule will cost more than $44 million.

The 127-page rule covers numerous services, including the provision of birth control pills, Plan B emergency contraceptives, other contraceptives a worker might consider to be abortion, abortion, and issuing referrals to obtain such care. The regulation could also protect workers who object to providing care to unmarried people or gay men and lesbians. The language of the rule stresses it does not prevent an organization from providing any type of care.

Critics of the regulation are promising to lobby the Obama administration and allies in Congress to reverse it, while supporters vow to defend it. The American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Hospital Association, family planning groups, abortion rights advocates, and others oppose the rule. Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have introduced a bill to repeal it.

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Officials at hospitals and clinics predict the rule will cause service disruptions and force family planning and fertility clinics, for example, to hire employees even if they would refuse to provide services.

"Doctors and other health care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience," said HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt. The regulation was championed by Concerned Women for America, the Catholic Health Association, abortion opponents, and other conservative groups.

For more information, visit http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-30134.htm.

Back to other news for December 2008

Adapted from:
Washington Post
12.19.2008; Rob Stein


  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 
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