“You Have Failed Entirely”, Says Planned Parenthood and ACLU

Planned Parenthood Federation of America with the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights sent a letter today to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs criticizing them for failing "to explain how the Provider Conscience regulation meets the “extraordinary circumstances” standard laid out in the Bolton Memorandum."

As RH Reality Check has extensively reported on over the last several months, the Bush administration felt it necessary to quickly release proposed regulations, under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), that would have disastrous effects on health care consumers, in particular women seeking contraception, by elevating the opinions of health care providers above critical access to health care. These proposed regulations allow for health care providers and any staff members in federally funded health care facilities, to define contraception as abortion, and to refuse to provide women contraception – for any reason – if it conflicts with their personal belief system.

“It’s unconscionable that the Bush administration, while promising a smooth transition, would take a final opportunity to politicize women’s health,” said PPFA President Cecile Richards. “People want government to find commonsense solutions to problems, not to create them by allowing health care providers to withhold critical information and services at a time when affordable health care is hard enough to come by.”

Unfortunately for the Bush administration, though they thought these proposed regulations would quietly become embedded in HHS policy, health care advocates, health care providers, women’s advocates, health care consumers and others took notice. In only a few weeks, more than 200,000 Americans registered their comments in the 30-day public commenting period – most of them vehemently opposed to such a regulation. 

"Ultimately, low-income women, who already face tremendous obstacles getting health care and rely more on public programs, will be hit the hardest by this regulation," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "This new rule violates a woman’s rights and needs as a patient and, in the end, only erects new barriers to her access to reproductive health care."

It was not looking good for Bush’s eleventh hour attempt to curtail women’s access to reproductive health care in a final move. But there’s more. 

According to a directive from the White House itself (the Bolton memorandum), issued in May 2008, all proposed regulations were to be submitted by June 1, 2008 in order to be considered for passage, unless there were "extraordinary circumstances" at work. The HHS regulations were not submitted until August 2008, thus causing advocates and others to assume the only way they could be considered was for their content to address said "extraordinary circumstances."

Unfortunately, as of today, there have been no explanations to the American public as to why these proposed regulations, seeking to reprioritize provider opinions and belief systems as more important than patient care, address critical circumstances. In order to seek answers, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights have sent a letter (below) to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

You can take action here


November 17, 2008

Hon. Susan E. Dudley
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Office of Management and Budget

725 17th Street, NW                                                                                

Washington, DC 20503

Fax:      (202) 395-3047
Email:   OIRA-submissions@omb.eop.gov

Dear Ms. Dudley:

The undersigned groups committed to women’s health are writing to urge OIRA to take its responsibilities seriously with respect to the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) “Provider Conscience Regulation” (RIN 0991-AB48, 73 Fed. Reg. 50274 (Aug. 26, 2008) (to be codified at 45 C.F.R. pt. 88).

As you are well-aware, on May 9, 2008, White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten issued a directive for agencies to submit all proposed regulations they wish to finalize before the end of the Bush Administration by June 1, 2008, except in “extraordinary circumstances.”  Mr. Bolten’s directive explicitly sought to “resist the historical tendency of administrations to increase regulatory activity in their final months.”  The purpose of the deadline was to ensure that agencies did not engage in ill-conceived rulemakings prior to a change of administration.

Yet this is exactly what HHS is doing with the Provider Conscience regulation.  These regulations, which relate to statutes that have been on the books for years (in one case, since the 1970’s) were not proposed until late August 2008.  Moreover, HHS has put the rule on the fast track with a shortened 30-day public comment period and no public hearing.

This unjustified last minute regulatory rush, in clear contravention of the Bolten directive, was drawn to your attention by the Institute for Policy Integrity (IPI).  In its letter dated September 5, 2008, IPI requested that you enforce Mr. Bolten’s directive by either explaining the “extraordinary circumstances” that require the issuance the Provider Conscience regulation, or preventing the promulgation of this eleventh-hour regulation.  Your response to that request, dated October 9, 2008, suggested that the Provider Conscience regulation is a “circumstance[] in which it would be appropriate for individual regulations to proceed without regard to deadlines if approved by OIRA, working closely with the heads of the President’s policy councils.”

You have failed entirely to explain how the Provider Conscience regulation meets the “extraordinary circumstances” standard laid out in the Bolton Memorandum.  If OIRA believes that extraordinary circumstances exist for this proposed regulation and plans to allow HHS to proceed with finalizing these regulations before the end of the Administration, we believe that OIRA owes the American public a clear explanation of the extraordinary circumstances that justify allowing this to happen.  We request that OIRA provide that explanation as soon as possible.

As demonstrated in the thousands of comments that HHS received in response to the proposed rule, this ill-conceived, last-minute regulation could have a dramatic negative effect on the delivery of basic healthcare to women.  OIRA should take its responsibilities seriously and not allow HHS to engage in ill-conceived, last-minute rulemaking – under the endorsement of OIRA.

Furthermore, we request that OIRA and OMB require HHS to undertake a more formal accounting of the costs and benefits of the proposed Provider Conscience regulation.  As IPI’s September 5 letter explained, the analysis performed by HHS was cursory and wholly inadequate.  That cost-benefit analysis does not even attempt to address the real cost of the regulation for women, especially low-income women, whose access to basic reproductive health services, including contraception, as well as information about those services, may be limited as a result of the regulation.

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  • invalid-0

    …from the lawless Bush administration, which has engaged in torturing detainees, the suspension of habeas corpus, illegal wiretapping, and waging illegal wars that have resulted in the death and displacement of millions.

    Amazingly, the right wingers continue to insist Bush is ‘pro-life’. Absolute madness.

  • truth

    If I am a business owner providing medical care prescriptions, etc…, why don’t I have the right to refuse service if it goes against my morals? Isn’t that what you people fight against? If a woman comes into my pharmacy asking for something that is morally wrong, and I advise her that we don’t carry that product – she has every right to go elsewhere to find it, right? If the government were to impose a law making it mandatory for me to provide something that I find immoral – wouldn’t that be infringing upon my right(s)? After all, we are talking about a moral issue here not the color of someone’s skin! If you are going to have a mission you should probably define what it is and stop talking out both sides of your mouth. In this case, Bush is upholding everyone’s right to abide by their own conscience. When the government starts forcing morals on the population that is not freedom! I thought you people don’t want the government involved in your lives? At least, that’s what you keep saying… Here you go – let people follow their morals, and stop crying to your Uncle Sam – it’s like a bunch of spoiled brats – you want it all ways all the time. You’re getting exactly what your asking for but when it doesn’t go your way – you complain.

  • invalid-0

    If a woman comes into my pharmacy asking for something that is morally wrong”

    When I go into a pharmacy to have a legal prescription filled the last thing I want to hear is a lecture about morality from a pharmacist or a clerk. Particularly when the misogynistic moron pockets the prescription as religious bigots like this are wont to do.

    I don’t care if fundies want to start ‘pro-life’ pharmacies and clinics and adverrtise them as such; I doubt there is a market for such a thing but hey, y’all are always saying that you’re not the tiny, fanatic minority we know you to be. Just don’t waste the time and money of normal women who, quite reasonably, do not care AT ALL what raving lunatics consider to be morally wrong. You seem to think that we must agree with your peculiar and self serving notions of morality or at least grant them respect and clearly, most people quite reasonably do not.

  • invalid-0

    If a woman comes into my pharmacy asking for something that is morally wrong

    Wow…so what you are saying is that a woman should be subjected to what YOU consider morally wrong??? Then don’t become a pharmicist. That would be like me becoming a surgeon and then saying that I don’t believe in doing surgery because I think it’s morally wrong to change God’s will! Then why the hell go into that profession if you can’t do what you’re there to do. The right wing has some crazy notions and it’s scary that people think that way. I’ll have you know…No one will tell me what to do with my body.

  • truth

    We’re not talking about lectures – we’re talking about if the non-Government owned Pharmicist has a right to not carry certain products or refuse service to anyone they choose. The answer is that they most certainly do AND they don’t have to explain to you or anyone else why they refused service. Now, if they serve the black woman and not the white woman then that would be a violation or the man and not the woman that would be a civil rights violation, etc. IF you REALLY want the government out of your lives then quit asking them for help all the time! You are creating a Socialist Republic. If a certain Pharmacy doesn’t carry a product you want – tell your doctor to quit calling in prescriptions there or just take your prescription elsewhere. No one wants to lecture you, but just like you want to live your life without morals there are others who want to live life with them (or a different set to be fair and balanced).

    • invalid-0

      Without exception, these bigots are JUUUUUST FIIIIINE with a pharmacy selling Viagra, which is 99% recreational, but will NOT sell contraception, which may save the life of a woman with a medical condition where becoming pregnant would endanger her life. I’d really like to hear the Orwellian “Truth” try to tap-dance around _this_ example of “serving the man but not the woman”.

    • invalid-0

      First, you don’t own a pharmacy and are not a pharmacist. Indeed, I’ll wager you’re not out of high school yet.

      Second, these regulations are designed to protect the asses of anti-social little freaks who do not own pharmacies but, rather, are employed by in some capacity in a pharmacy or hospital or clinic. It gives them license to discriminate and and publically judge and berate unsuspecting women with impunity and makes it illegal for their employer to fire their sorry asses for such unprofessional conduct.

      “The answer is that they most certainly do AND they don’t have to explain to you or anyone else why they refused service.”

      They do if they want to stay in business. Women feel strongly about being discriminated against in this manner and no amount of denial on your part will change the fact that this refusing to fill legal prescriptions for contraceptives is discriminatory and offensive.
      You may not know any but the world is full of women of respect themselves and do not put up with crap.

      No one wants to lecture you

      and yet the fundie pharmacists do indeed lecture unsuspecting women who happen into their local Walgreens on the wrong day. And they have been known to pocket the prescription (which is, btw, stealing)
      And what are you and your fellow fanatics doing here if not lecturing your betters about things they understand far better than you?

  • truth

    If you are coming into MY pharmacy (key word: MY) then YES you have to abide by MY rules. If you don’t like them – then leave! That is called the United States of Mother-Fing America! Love it or leave it. As far as choosing a profession is concerned – last I checked – there are more prescriptions to fill than just abortifacients. So pharmicists aren’t just there to fill your needs even though you might think they are. In fact, a pharmicist not dealing in abortifacients has chosen not to make as much money because the mark-up is really nice on the morning after pill and the regularity of "the pill" is great for a pharmacy. So the minority of pharmicists who choose not to deal it – believe me – they have thought through their decision and fought with their greed ad nauseam. Just like you said we are a small part of the population so why not just leave us alone and let us live as we wish. There are plenty of places in America to get what you desire – whatever your desires are, right?

    • invalid-0

      ‘My pharmacy!! My rules!! Minemineminemine!!!’.

      This regulation would force private companies to hire or retain staff who refuse to perform their jobs. Do you understand that? It would mean the government would have the power to regulate and enforce practices related to hiring and firing employees. If you have a problem with ‘socialism’, you really should be opposing this, but I have a sneaking suspicion you’re not really interested in the economic ideology underlying socialism or capitalism.

      If I’m a vegan and won’t serve animal products because I think it’s wrong to use animals for food, should McDonald’s be forced to hire me or keep me on as an employee? In other words, should I be getting paid for a job I’m refusing to do?

      The problem is that fundamentalist anti-choicers are going into professions like pharmacy specifically in order to impose their unfounded religious fantasies on people (mostly women). They’re not planning to do their jobs; they’re planning to moralise at, judge and degrade women who just want their legally prescribed medication. A pharmacist’s job is to dispense the medication, not to decide whether it is, in their opinion, morally correct for the patient to take their prescribed medication. I guess you’re unaware that some women take oral contraceptive pills or use Mirena IUDs for medical conditions such as endometriosis? A pharmacist can’t know that one way or another, and it is not ok for them to invade a woman’s privacy so they can judge whether the woman is taking the medication for a reason of which they approve.

      And no, laws don’t stop applying just because you lease or own the building in which the pharmacy is located. If you steal my script (or any other of my possessions) on your property, it’s still stealing, and is thus still a crime; ditto if I stole something from you on my property.

  • invalid-0

    Dear ‘Truth’: You keep saying that you don’t want the government involved. Then why do YOU want the government to promulgate this hideous regulation? It’s not pro-choice people who are asking the government for help! It’s pharmacists like you who simultaneously proclaim that you are completely independent. Funny idea of independence, eh? While still crying to the government for help? Indeed, it’s pro-choice people who are asking the government to butt out.

  • invalid-0

    Truth, you are a real jerk. You are lambasting women for using Government while doing the same thing! You can have your anti choice pharmacies, but I tell you you had better advertise it as such, so that we can identify you and protest against your blatant discrimination against women. You have no right to moralize or think that your morals are superior, they are not. I cannot wait until president Obama overturns this Bush and Leavitt discrimination against women. What will you do then?? I hope that you go out of business, you deserve to. If you don’t want to do your job, then you should go into another line of work!! You obviously hate women, for some crazy reason unbeknownst to the rest of us. Just reading your posts shows that strongly. I am giving 50.00 to planned Parenthood because you made me so angry. As an educated professional, I have plenty of money to give. I urge other women who can afford to to do the same. “Truth” your version of truth is a big lie! I can’t wait until we undo all of the Bush anti-choice descriminations against women.

  • invalid-0

    Your response, including the words you have chosen to use, do not resonate with you stating that you are “an educated professional.” Also, a donation given in anger is hardly well thought out support of your cause.
    This post and others are not well argued, educated responses. Your words become meaningless with name-calling and the like.
    Also, when someone has to mention that they are “educated,” I become immediately suspect.

  • betty-brown

    first of all, nothing about the comment you’re talking about sounds like an uneducated person.  not to mention, it’s kind of ridiculous to claim that comments here are not well argued, nor do they sound well educated.  it’s ridiculous because you don’t sound exactly brilliant – you sound like someone attempting to sound well-educated and intelligent.   and your overuse of commas gives you away as someone not so educated in the english language.

    and secondly, who cares about your opinion about donations given in anger?  oh, wait, i know who cares – people like anti-choicers who anger those who respect a woman’s choice so much that many donations are given to organizations like planned parenthood in response.  

    thirdly, why would anyone care one bit what makes you suspect?  people who spend time at websites that express opinions they don’t agree with at all, and also take the extra time to leave comments, those people immediately make me suspect – of their sanity.






    truth?  is truth unchanging law?  we both have truths, are mine the same as yours?

  • emma

    Therese, I’m really not sure what point you’re trying to make. Many things motivate people to donate their time, money and/or effort to causes in which they believe, and anger is as valid a source of motivation as any other.


    Also, I’ve found that it’s extremely difficult to deduce someone’s profession, income or intelligence on the basis of informal comments written on the internet.

  • invalid-0

    I could not have argued my point better than your response. By the way, my comma usage is impeccable. I hope you all find peace. Ciao!

  • invalid-0

    So what if a pharmacist decides that he believes it is God’s will to suffer pain and refuses to fill scrips for pain meds, or that people who have Type 2 diabetes should just eat the “Maker’s Diet” instead of using scrips, or a Doctor decides that blood transfusions are against Gods will so won’t do them(there are those who believe these things) are they allowed to refuse to do their job? If one feels so strongly about medical issues that it interferes with ones job they should find a different profession. It is as simple as that.

    • invalid-0

      …namely that pharmacists are LICENSED professionals. That government permit alone should override any “conscience” issues. While we’re at it, Truth, you would have US believe you know more about pharmacies than the your fellow cyberspace-travellers but are you really a pharmacist? Let alone one who OWNS the pharmacy where you work? Aside from those in the supermarkets, there’s lots of CVS, Rite Aid, Target and Wal-Mart pharmacies where I live, which is not very urban at all. Your “small minority” was licensed by the government, which you probably helped elect, and look where it got you? In the end, the big money of Wall Street got rewarded for its bad behavior, but the marketplace trumped “values” with the eventual marketing of more birth control methods than when Bush first took office. All pharmacies are licensed by the government you hate so much to SELL all the prescription products LICENSED doctors can prescribe. While I am no legal eagle as to having a small-town pharmacist’s license REVOKED for habitually failing to order the product listed in a doctor’s script, I would seek to have that pharmacy’s membership in the local chamber of commerce DISCARDED. Just how old are you, Truth? Doctors can no longer play God, so that would automatically prohibit YOU from doing likewise, pharmacist or not. Is any reproductive rights group suing pharmacists of “conscience” for child support?

  • http://www.majon.com/safeannounce invalid-0

    wow, what a very driving and contreversial subject with really great comments from different angles of the situation. If you dont like it, maybe one should seriously consider moving out of the country and finding out how good they really have it……or not. Everyone is different.

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