On Friday, the Obama administration rescinded the "conscience" rules, first instituted under the Bush administration, that granted protections to medical providers who refused to provide abortions,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