May 29, 2024

Bush broadens conscience exemption in dying days of office

Creates headache for new administration

The Bush Administration is creating bioethical headaches for its successor even in as its candle gutters into history. It is planning to announce a broad new "right of conscience" rule which will allow medical facilities, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare workers to refuse to participate in procedures they find morally objectionable. These definitely include abortion and possibly even artificial insemination and birth control.

The new rule will make it clear that health employees may also refuse to provide information or advice about abortion. It also will exempt employees who are remote from the actual procedure, such as nurses who are asked to clean up after an abortion. According to the Health and Human Services Department, the rule will cover any entity that receives federal funds. It estimated 584,000 of these could be covered, including 4,800 hospitals, 234,000 doctor’s offices and 58,000 pharmacies.

HHS says the proposed rule is needed because of an attitude "that healthcare professionals should be required to provide or assist in the provision of medicine or procedures to which they object, or else risk being subjected to discrimination."

If the regulation is issued before December 20, it will be final when the new administration takes office. Overturning it – as the Obama administration will certainly do – could take several months. ~ Los Angeles Times, Dec 2