US House Votes to Allow Doctors to Refuse to Perform Abortions
Earlier this month, the US House of Representatives voted to approve the Federal Refusal Clause, which will allow any doctor, hospital, or health care provider to refuse to perform an abortion, and refuse to refer a patient seeking an abortion to another doctor, even in the case of rape or medical emergency. The clause was offered as part of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill for 2005. Because the clause was sent to the Senate as a piece of the larger appropriations bill, it is guaranteed to advance to a House-Senate conference committee, the Associated Press reports.
Anti-abortion extremists are citing "moral grounds" as reason enough for doctors, hospitals, and even pharmacists to refuse to provide reproductive health services. BBC News reports that 12 states have taken steps to legislate this moral authority by introducing so-called "conscience clauses" in their state legislatures, allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense certain prescription drugs, including birth control, without risk of losing their jobs. According to the Associated Press, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Arkansas already have such refusal laws in place.
There have been several incidents reported across the country in recent months where pharmacists refused to fill prescriptions for birth control pills. BBC News reports that some doctors are refusing to prescribe the birth control pill, calling it a "chemical abortion." Catholics for a Free Choice, an opponent of such legislation, contends that those most affected by these limitations in reproductive health access are poor women in the most extreme circumstances.