Let’s see some proof, the Obama administration said, in essence, today, to those who claimed that health care providers desperately needed further protection to prevent discrimination based on their religious objection to providing abortion care. The administration proposed a rule to rescind a previous HHS regulation, promulgated last December, to allow individuals and institutions much greater leeway in refusing to provide care (including permitting them not only not to refer patients but to neglect to inform patients of the care they weren’t getting). The proposed rule, which you can read here, acknowledges existing protections for provider conscience objections to care and proposes to rescind the rule entirely. However, the rule also makes clear that HHS is seeking information on what the likely impact of the conscience expansion regulation would be and whether it is justified.
During the 30-day comment period that commences now, the Department is seeking:
1. Information, including specific examples where feasible, addressing the scope and nature of the problems giving rise to the need for federal rulemaking and how the current rule would resolve those problems;
2. Information, including specific examples where feasible, supporting or refuting allegations that the December 19, 2008 final rule reduces access to information and health care services, particularly by low-income women;
3. Comment on whether the December 19, 2008 final rule provides sufficient clarity to minimize the potential for harm resulting from any ambiguity and confusion that may exist because of the rule; and
4. Comment on whether the objectives of the December 19, 2008 final rule might also be accomplished through non-regulatory means, such as outreach and education.
administration deserves great praise for its move today to rescind this
harmful rule, which serves only to undermine patients’ access to vital
health care services and information, and poses especially grave risks
to women’s health and lives," said the National Women’s Law Center’s Marcia Greenberger.