Obama replaces controversial “conscience” regulation for healthcare workers
The Obama administration a fortnight ago rescinded most of a federal regulation designed to protect healthcare workers who refuse to provide care on moral or religious grounds.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 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fortnight ago rescinded most of a federal regulation designed to protect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,
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