Attorney Generals to Challenge President Bush’s New Abortion Rules for Docs

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 29, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Attorney Generals to Challenge President Bush’s New Abortion Rules for Docs

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 29
, 2008

Washington, DC ( — Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut says he will lead a fight against a federal rule issued by the Bush administration to protect doctors and medical facilities from being pressured to participate in abortions. The rule enforces federal law protecting the conscience rights of medical professionals.

Though the new regulations have nothing to do with birth control, Blumenthal is echoing the arguments from leading pro-abortion groups who claim its access will be adversely impacted by them.

"I will fight this outrageous rule — the outgoing Bush Administration’s latest and last swipe at women’s health," he said in a statement obtained. "This rule is an appalling insult and abuse — a midnight power grab to deny access to health care services and information, including even to victims of rape."

Blumenthal led a 13-state coalition to fight the abortion rule before it was adopted, calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in formal comments to entirely abandon the Provider Conscience Regulation.

He said he will resume working with pro-abortion officials in the other states to derail the pro-life protections for medical centers and staff — slated to take effect on January 20.

"Our strong coalition of states will fight fiercely to block this reprehensible threat to hard-fought patient and victim rights," he said.

State attorney generals from Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont joined Blumenthal in opposing the rule originally.

Though Blumenthal characterizes the Bush administration’s protections for doctors as an attack on birth control, others see it much differently.

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said the right of federally funded health care providers to decline to participate in services to which they object, such as abortion, should be affirmed by federal law.

"Over the past three decades, Congress enacted several statutes to safeguard the freedom of health care providers to practice according to their conscience. The new regulation will increase awareness of and compliance with these laws," Leavitt said.

“Doctors and other health care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience,” Leavitt added. “This rule protects the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience.”

"While it would strengthen provider conscience rights, the regulation would in no way restrict health care providers from performing any legal service or procedure," he said disabusing Blumenthal.

Specifically, the rule clarifies that non-discrimination protections apply to institutional health care providers as well as to individual employees working for recipients of certain funds from HHS.

It requires recipients of certain HHS funds to certify their compliance with laws protecting provider conscience rights and designates the HHS Office for Civil Rights as the entity to receive complaints of discrimination addressed by the existing statutes and the regulation.

Though the rule takes effect next month, HHS components have been given discretion to phase in the written certification requirement by October 1, 2009.

However, Blumenthal and his marplots are expected to file suit against the rule.

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