Alex Blaze

Another assault on women's choice

Filed By Alex Blaze | December 18, 2008 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, contraception, George W. Bush, medical, nurses, object, pro-choice, pro-life, rick warren, right of conscience, women

Women's reproductive choice suffered a legal blow this week, with the Bush administration issuing a new rule that allows medical staff who have moral objections to women's autonomy to refuse treatment:

The controversial rule empowers federal health officials to cut off federal funding for any state or local government, hospital, clinic, health plan, doctor's office or other entity if it does not accommodate employees who exercise their "right of conscience." It would apply to more than 584,000 health-care facilities.

It lets anyone off the hook who works in these facilities - doctors, nurses, technicians - and would make it significantly harder for women in rural areas to access contraception or abortion. If someone feels that they don't want to provide a treatment or prescribe a pill to a woman, they don't have to anymore.

This rule is basically the opposite of civil rights legislation - it allows for medical staff to discriminate against women if they want to under the misguided notion that women can just seek another facility.

RH Reality Check also notes that groups that apply for Title X funding don't have to even inform women that abortion is an option:

One of the rule's more disturbing provisions is the announcement that Title X family planning funding will now be open to grantees who refuse to counsel women on the availability of abortion. Title X has always required that when a woman tests positive for pregnancy, she must be counseled on all of her options, including abortion, and given referrals based on what her expressed interest. The regulations state that Title X funding will be granted "non-discriminatorily" to applicants, including those who refuse to provide counseling and referral for abortion.

In fact, it's unclear if a clinic or organization, when hiring, is even allowed to ask a candidate if they're willing to provide these services.

It seems that the right has succeeded in at least normalizing the idea that if you don't want to do something, if you feel that it's wrong, then there should be no consequences to you not doing it (yet they don't seem to feel the same way about soldiers who object to being deployed to an oil war in the Middle East...). If these people don't want to perform services necessary to their job, they should definitely consider another line of work.

This isn't a case of accommodating a few people who have religious or moral beliefs that complicate their presence in the workplace, like people who need to take religious holidays that aren't recognized by the government. These people are opposed to one of the foundations of their profession, namely helping improve the quality of people's lives, and are only opposed when it comes to women who are patients. This isn't about accommodating people who want to, in good faith, work; this is about changing the fundamental purpose of certain medial institutions to conform to a small group of people's ignorance.

Which would probably explain why the Religious Right is so happy about this rule.

Many people are pointing out that Obama will likely overturn this rule when he gets in office, but let's think about what Bush just did here. He had all of 8 years to pass a rule like this, and yet he waits until the last election of his term is over to pass it. He knows that it's unpopular and that it wouldn't have done anything to help the party before the election.

But what it does do is force Obama to overturn it when he gets into office. Hey, you know that alliance Obama's trying to build with "new" evangelicals like Rick Warren who consider abortion a "non-negotiable" issue? It seems like Republicans found a monkey wrench to throw into that one.

That's Bush: playing politics with less important people's bodies for 14 years. Why should he stop now?


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This isn't even getting into the constitutional or legal ramifications of this ruling. It is a further erosion of the establishment clause, and is setting up a precedent of protection for extremist social policies based on religious 'freedom' and choice.

Tactically speaking, a smart move by the reactionaries and christian taliban elements.

Any analysis available yet to determine if this rule would include treatment of LGBT people? For example, could a family planning clinic refuse to help a same-sex couple looking to start a family through surrogacy or artificial insemination? Could the rule allow pharmacists to refuse hormone prescriptions for transgender people?

Everything I'm reading says that this is specifically about abortion, although the law allows people to define birth control as abortion.

Here's what the WaPo said:

The rule comes at a time of increasingly frequent reports of conflicts between health-care workers asserting their religious freedom and patients seeking legal treatments that some providers object to. Pharmacists have turned away women seeking birth control and morning-after pills. Infertility doctors have refused to help unmarried and lesbian women get pregnant by artificial insemination. Catholic hospitals have refused to administer the morning-after emergency contraception pill, perform abortions or treat women having miscarriages.

So I'm guessing that they didn't include fertility services for lesbians in here.

Well Rachel Maddow explored this on her show tonight. It is so loosely worded that yes, anyone who objects to someone just for being GLBT (or any other group that is objected to existing on a religious basis) can in fact be denied ANY medical service from hospitals to drugs if the receptionist objects.....

It's beyond draconian.

My reading of the bill - and one that can be argued legally on many levels - is that in any case in which the doctor, the administration or any staff members have a moral conflict with the service being provided it can be denied.

I would think that would apply to fertility services (didn't the Catholics just come out against in vitro this week?) and many other issues as well.

Legally, it could apply to things as esoteric as chemotherapy for women with cancer who happen to be pregnant since endangering the foetus is a right wing no-no and products of conception are far more valuable than women are.

The Catholics are big on that one and Benedict XVI recently beatified a woman who sentenced herself to death by refusing treatment based upon Catholic mythos....

Adriana Thompson | December 19, 2008 5:45 AM

While not quite on topic, it's certainly in the same direction - that in the great close-minded state of Texas, Rick Perry is pushing for a new flavor of vanity plates - "4Life". What's happening to this concept I heard about once...let's see, pro...pro something...oh, wait...it was pro choice, that's what it was. First the pharmacies are told they can tell a woman they can't get RU486, if it's against the pharmacist's personal beliefs. Now Bush is effectively telling the hospitals and hospital staff the same thing. The last I checked, I wasn't some mindless organism, and I sure as *bleep* aren't a male...so who's taken away my freedom of choice, because I *know* I haven't just tossed it out with the trash.

This administration never ceases to amaze me. This is horrible for women as well as all LGBT people.

As a transsexual, I know how difficult it can be to find health care. This makes a difficult problem much, much worse.

January 20 cannot come soon enough for me.

Oh--by the way, trans people can kiss access to hormones goodbye under his rule. If a pharmacist objects to changing gender, no polyjuice potion for you.

What amazes me the most is that the government gueninely thinks that it has the write to force treatment on its citizens just because of there misguided morals. Incredible