Before President Bush leaves the Oval Office, he plans to implement a new, broader "right of conscious rule" that would allow doctors, nurses, pharmacists, other healthcare workers AND medical institutions that receive federal funding, to "refuse to participate in any medical procedure that they find morally objectionable." That could include:
- Abortion at any stage, including dispensing the "morning after pill"
- Birth control
- Fertility treatments like artificial insemination.
For the last 30 years, a federal law on the books has permitted doctors and nurses to refuse to perform an abortion. This newly revised law would even allow healthcare workers to refuse information or advice to person's wanting an abortion. And the rule would even go so far as to allow someone who "cleans the operating room instruments" to refuse their services.
This conscious rule could pose a huge problem to the new Obama Administration. Obama's position has been that "though there is a clear moral ground to abortion, he would still protect the rights of women to seek an abortion." And though he could turn around and decide to overrule - it would involve months of wrangling and obviously some negative reactions from certain communities.
The president of Planned Parenthood has been quoted as saying that this move by President Bush is "an outrage" considering the president's comments about a smooth transition. "Instead he is choosing to politicize women's health." Abortion advocates are planning to pin their hopes on the fact that Congress will ultimately reject it. Hillary Clinton and Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) are among those poised to move to reverse it. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) has put out a statement that "a patient's well-being must be paramount" when a conflict arises over a medical professional's beliefs. the ACOG used four recent "problematic situations" to support their position:
(1) In Texas, a pharmacist rejected a rape victim's request for the morning after pill
(2) A 42 year old mother of two was refused emergency contraception and became pregnant
(3) In California, a doctor refused to perform artificial insemination for a lesbian couple
(4) In Nebraska, a 19 year old with a life-threatening embolism was refused an early abortion at a religiously affiliated hospital.
ACOG's position is that "if you won't do it" you must refer the patient to another healthcare worker who will, in order to preserve the patient's right to health care. HHS Secretary Leavitt intends to go ahead and issue the rule and says that "the proposed rule is needed to allow healthcare workers the right to refuse performing a morally objectionable treatment and being discriminated against for that choice."
A lawyer for the National Women's Law Center says that this rule goes "way beyond just abortion and if implemented could impact sperm donation, end-of-life care and wreak havoc in a hospital where an employee can declare that they are routinely unwilling to do assigned and expected duties."
All I can say is.....I'm pretty shocked and surprised about this turn of events.
Published On: December 02, 2008