Pro-choice organizations and women’s groups
have rightly been vocal about a recent proposal by the Department of Health and
Human Services (HHS) to expand protections for medical professionals who refuse
to provide health care services that they object to on moral grounds.
Among the flurry of comments sent to HHS before the
shortened public response period closed, was one that could be a serious blow
to the regulation. This letter focused not only on women’s’
rights, but also on the Department’s use of bad economics.
The Institute for Policy Integrity (IPI), a
think-tank at New York University Law School, did an analysis of the
rule. It found that HHS could be in violation of the Administrative
Procedure Act because it relied on a poor cost-benefit analysis. Under
these rules, regulators need to take into consideration all anticipated
positive and negative consequences of a rule before finalizing it.
The Bush Administration claims that the benefits
outweigh the costs of this regulation. But they reached this conclusion
without actually using any data or proof. The HHS analysis overlooked
First, HHS says the only positive consequence is an
increase in diversity of viewpoints among the healthcare workforce. While
diversity is a positive, to include this type of diversity as an economic
benefit without any sort of evidence that this would actually result is
Second, HHS found that the only cost of the
rule was . . . paperwork. This is not only absurd, but also profoundly
inaccurate. Bush Administration officials have completely disregarded all
of the effects this rule would have on women’s health.
What about decreased access to contraception,
decreased availability of medical information, decreased supply of counseling
services, decreased availability of general medical services, and possible
refusals to treat whole groups of individuals (such as the LGBT community or
HIV/AIDS patients)? Apparently, the folks at HHS either believe these
things have no value or they didn’t even anticipate the possibility of
The Center for Reproductive Rights, National Latina
Institute for Reproductive Health, and National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum,
along with 50 other reproductive health, legal, and human rights organizations,
submitted comments that included this analysis from IPI. The coalition is
trying to make the Bush Administration take into consideration the concerns of
pro-choice and women’s groups as a matter of economics and law.
Let’s hope they listen.
To read the comments submitted by the coalition,