Friday, November 21, 2008

Latest Bush Administration Attack on Women's Health and Sexuality

At midnight last night, the Bush administration quietly and without much media attention put into place a new regulation that allows persons working in health care facilities that receive federal funds to refuse to provide services and information to patients if it disagrees with them. It also prohibits the hospitals and clinics from asking prospective employees about their willingness to provide such services.

WHAT? In other words, it will be okay for a doctor or a pharmacist in a federally funded hospital treating a woman who has been raped to not offer her emergency contraception; for a counselor not to tell a woman seeking pregnancy counseling about abortion; for a teenager who is sexually active not to be offered contraceptive services or even contraceptive information if the provider disagrees. And they don't have to refer to someone who will provide that information.

It sounds like a scenario from the Handmaiden's Tale...or the Bush administration's last battle against women's health and sexuality.

Tens of thousands of people wrote the Bush administration decrying the regulations, apparently to no avail. They included the President-elect, who we hope will add this to the list of executive orders he will overturn on January 21st.

Yesterday, Senators Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray introduced a bill to overturn this regulation before it causes much damage. Read Senator Clinton's explanation here.

One would expect that all those people calling for common ground on abortion would be protesting this blatant attack on access to contraception. As I have written over and over, surely we can agree that the first steps to prevent abortions are information, education, and access to contraception. So, how come we haven't heard from any of you on this? Surely you understand that limiting contraceptive services is putting women and families at risk...or is this really about punishing women for their sexual activity? Speak up and prove me wrong.


Joel Monka said...

The way you describe this act in your first paragraph, it sounds like the intent is to allow hospital workers the right of conscience. That doesn't sound so bad. If we denounce the "Nuremburg defense"- "I was just following orders"- shouldn't we champion the right to say, "I cannot in good conscience perform that act."? Or does that only apply to acts of conscience we agree with?

What if a doctor were ordered to perform a lethal injection for a death sentence? Would he be allowed to refuse on principle, or would he be told, "Sorry, but you accepted Medicare payments from poor patients. You took government money, so you must obey government orders."?

If accepting government money negates your right to refuse an act you believe immoral, doesn't that reestablish the nuremburg defense? Isn't there the chance of clinics refusing to accept Medicare, Medicaid, and VA checks because they don't want to be made subject to such regulations? And wouldn't that result in less healthcare for women, not more?

it seems to me there is clash of principles here- I don't think it's as clear as "You just want to punish women".

Anonymous said...

Joel is correct, but this act makes no provision to inform patients of alternatives that a holder of conscience may not feel comfortable providing. In making no such provision, the doctors and other health care providers are allowed to discriminate against all kinds of individuals without restriction.
I have been refused medical attention in emergency rooms because many docs fear contact with transsexuals and there is no law that mandates treatment be given to them no matter how badly they have been injured.
This little attack gives every doc the right to expand treatment refusals to anyone they dislike. That's openly the promotion of discrimination and we should be working to kill this law in courts.