Looks like ‘right of conscience’ law will be revisited

Articles
January 25, 2009

Looks like ‘right of conscience’ law will be revisited

One of President George Bush’s last signatures in office instituted a ‘right of conscience’ law, which many warn could compromise the reproductive health of 17 million women seeking birth control, emergency contraceptives, family planning, infertility treatment, artificial insemination or abortion. Opponents of the law are already trying to influence the Obama Administration to repeal the measure, and supporters are vocal about keeping it. The law cuts off federal funding for any state or local government, hospital, health plan, clinic or other entity that doesn’t accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists or other employees (technicians, nurses’ aides, secretaries, janitors, volunteers) who refuse to participate in care they find ethically, morally or religiously objectionable, according to a summary in the Washington Post. President Obama had criticized the regulation when it was proposed last summer. Legislation has already been proposed to counter it. As it stands now, well over 500,000 healthcare entities have until Oct. 1 to certify their compliance in writing, or risk the loss of funding.

One of President George Bush’s last signatures in office instituted a ‘right of conscience’ law, which many warn could compromise the reproductive health of 17 million women seeking birth control, emergency contraceptives, family planning, infertility treatment, artificial insemination or abortion.

Opponents of the law are already trying to influence the Obama Administration to repeal the measure, and supporters are vocal about keeping it.

The law cuts off federal funding for any state or local government, hospital, health plan, clinic or other entity that doesn’t accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists or other employees (technicians, nurses’ aides, secretaries, janitors, volunteers) who refuse to participate in care they find ethically, morally or religiously objectionable, according to a summary in the Washington Post.

President Obama had criticized the regulation when it was proposed last summer. Legislation has already been proposed to counter it.  As it stands now, well over 500,000 healthcare entities have until Oct. 1 to certify their compliance in writing, or risk the loss of funding.

Yet Obama last Thursday reiterated his commitment to abortion rights so “our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons,” reported The Associated Press. “No matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion and support women and families in the choices they make…We must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information and preventative services.”

Sounds like this issue will aired extensively on Capitol Hill, and that attention will be paid to issues such as those raised by American Hospitals Association executive vice president Rick Pollack in a letter to HHS (Health and Human Services) on September 23 during the 30-day comment period. Among them: the administrative burden of certifying; the potential of additional frivolous and burdensome lawsuits; the broad definitions of health care and individuals that may be involved in an objectionable procedure; the measure’s conflict with existing state and federal laws that require hospitals to provide certain services; and perhaps most importantly, “The AHA objects to any proposal that releases a practitioner, for any reason, from an obligation to provide or assist patients with a referral or other information that would allow the patient to receive needed health care services.”