On Friday, the Obama administration rescinded the "conscience" rules, first instituted under the Bush administration, that granted protections to medical providers who refused to provide abortions, sterilization, in-vitro fertilization, and other medical procedures, such as care to AIDS patients, due to moral objections.
Under the "conscience" rules, hospitals could refuse to provide emergency contraception to rape victims and pharmacists could refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control pills. In addition, the Bush administration rules stated that hospitals, clinics, and health plans that refused to honor workers' "right of conscience" could face a loss of federal funding.
Susan Berke Fogel, director of reproductive health at the National Health Law Center stated, "The 2008 regulation put millions of women at risk, and undermined the ability of providers to establish clear protocols to ensure that patients get the health care they need, by intentionally confusing birth control with abortion, and extending 'conscience rights' to an extremely broad group of health care workers - far beyond current law."
The revised law, which will go into effect in 30 days, will continue to allow doctors and nurses to refuse to provide abortions on religious or moral grounds.
Media Resources: National Women's Law Center 2/22/11; Washington Post 2/19/11; National Health Law Center Press Statement 2/18/11; New York Times 2/18/11; NPR 2/18/11; Wall Street Journal 2/18/11
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .