The Obama administration a fortnight ago rescinded most of a federal regulation designed to protect healthcare workers who refuse to provide care on moral or religious grounds. The decision effectively dismantles one of President George W. Bush’s more controversial policies – a shield for conscientious objection to medical services, like providing contraceptives or performing IVF for lesbians or single women. The new rule leaves intact long-standing “conscience” protections for doctors and nurses who do not want to perform abortions or sterilisations. Also retained are procedures for allowing health workers to file complaints if their rights are violated.
The new rule, which goes into effect this month, is likely to fuel the ever-growing debate over abortion and related issues. House Republicans have introduced a number of pieces of legislation containing provisions that would recreate many of the effects of the Bush rule.
The division of opinion on the new policy is stark. One the one hand, it is being hailed as saving patients whose lives are at risk because of the intransigent moral prejudice. "Without the rescission of this regulation, we would see tremendous discrimination against patients based on their behavior and based just on who they are," said Susan Berke Fogel of the National Health Law Program. "We would see real people suffer, and more women could die."
On the other hand, it is being condemned as an encroachment personal freedom. “Today, the Obama administration demonstrated exactly why we need to have strong conscience protection for health workers written into our laws,” said Rep. Joe Pitt, who is sponsoring the Protect Life Act, which would institute more protections into the health overhaul legislation. “Without legal protection, we can certainly expect even more bureaucratic assaults on the conscience of medical workers.” ~ Washington Post, Feb 19