On Friday, the Obama administration rescinded the "conscience" rules, first instituted under the Bush administration, that granted protections to medical providers who refused to provide abortions,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
11/20/2014 Federal Appeals Court Rejects Priests for Life Challenge to Birth Control Coverage Rule - In a victory for women's health, a unanimous panel of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on Friday rejected a challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) contraceptive coverage benefit brought by Priests for Life, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington and other religiously affiliated non-profit organizations.
Judge Nina Pillard, a former law professor who was nominated to the DC Circuit by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in December, wrote the opinion for the Court, which found that the ACA birth control benefit did not substantially burden or violate non-profits' religious freedom.
Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies must cover the full cost of all FDA-approved contraceptives - including the pill, IUDs, and emergency contraception - without requiring co-pays or cost-sharing. . . .