September 19, 2008

Urgent! Because if there's one thing new parents know about, it's the importance of birth control.

I'm sure most of you know about this by now, but if not I want to mention this excellent editorial in today's times discussing a new Department of Health and Human Services rule for all health care entities that receive federal funding. The rule would require all such services providers to certify that "none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable."

It's the vagueness of this rule that is so terrifying.

Laws that have been on the books for some 30 years already allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further, ensuring that all employees and volunteers for health care entities can refuse to aid in providing any treatment they object to, which could include not only abortion and sterilization but also contraception.

Health and Human Services estimates that the rule, which would affect nearly 600,000 hospitals, clinics and other health care providers, would cost $44.5 million a year to administer. Astonishingly, the department does not even address the real cost to patients who might be refused access to these critical services. Women patients, who look to their health care providers as an unbiased source of medical information, might not even know they were being deprived of advice about their options or denied access to care.

Really? Really, Health and Human Services? You don't have anything better to do with that 44 million dollars than "protect the consciences" of medical professionals from the basic requirements of the jobs they themselves chose?

A couple of things:

1: Maybe there's some defense of this rule that I haven't heard? Or is it really just this horrifying?

2: So, as I understand it, an original draft of the rule had mentioned abortion specifically (in a way that included types of birth control) as services people didn't have to provide. Specifying that detail was too unpopular, so the rule was left intentionally vague. As if it's less horrifying that people can now just refuse to do anything?

3: Really, people just imagine all the many things that this law might be interpreted to cover.

4: Don't you have the sense that stupid, dangerous, and expensive rules like this are exactly why the so called "conservative" Bush administration has run up so much debt?

5: I live in a pretty underserved neighborhood, and am from a very small town. I know that there are many reasons why women already have very narrow options when they choose health care providers. This rule will hit the people with the fewest options the hardest--the people with the fewest resources, and the least opportunities for education.

6: Which again, right, this is why social and fiscal conservatism do not go together! Because when you take an underserved, under educated group of women and take away access to or information about birth control, it's really difficult to whine about increased spending and welfare moms!

7: But it's not just the underserved and undereducated. It's also those of us who have happy feminist health care providers paid for by a PPO. Most women I know have, at some moment in their lives, been in a situation where things had gone wrong: either they were away from home in an emergency, or had some birth control problem or failure, or sometimes something really awful that there's no reason to rehash here. In those situations, we all need to know that we can get accurate information and responsible care.

Anyway: this rule goes into effect SOON. I strongly encourage anyone interested to oppose it.


sheree said...

Thanks, Sarah, for drawing attention to this one.
The original draft of the rule actually took the tremendous leap of specifically defining contraception as abortion--something "the conservative base" has been trying to do for several years now, with consequences that are very far reaching, not to mention the blantantly wrong.

Also, thanks for the link.

Michelle said...

If anyone wants to actually ready the proposed rule in lieu of making judgements based on op-ed pieces or the positions of various organizations, the proposed rule is here:

This government website allows you to comment directly and have your comment entered into the public record in lieu of submitting it to a third party.

COMMENTS ARE DUE BY 11:59 PM TONIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!