Still Waiting for Administration to Impose "Conscience" Rule
By Rachel Walden — December 3, 2008
As we’ve been covering since August, a proposed rule out of the Department of Health and Human Services purports to protect provider “conscience” (extending that explicitly to those who clean instruments and other non-physician roles). The rule is ostensibly protect providers from having to perform abortions (although this right is already protected), but would likely have the effect of seriously reducing access to legal health care such as oral contraceptives.
The proposed rule has already been through a formal public comment period (without a real public hearing), and we’re watching closely to see if it is rammed through during the last days of the Bush administration. Although Chief of Staff John Bolten issued a memo in May asking that “Except in extraordinary circumstances, regulations to be finalized in this Administration should be proposed no later than June 1, 2008, and final regulations should be issued no later than November 1, 2008,” articles such as this piece in the LA Times suggest that the rule could still be finalized. The rule was proposed in late August, and has obviously missed the November 1 deadline.
Last night, Rachel Maddow on MSNBC spoke with Melissa Harris-Lacewell, and has an excellent discussion of the issue for those just catching up on the topic.
(from The Rachel Maddow Show)
We have written a number of posts in the past several months on this topic which you can review for further details, including:
- HHS Ready to Implement New Rule on Physician Conscience (11/18)
- Ten Reasons to Comment Opposing Proposed HHS Rule (9/24)
- Countdown to Conscience Clause Regulation (9/22)
- The Many Costs of the New HHS Rule Privileging Conscience Over Patients (8/28)
- ABOG Calls Out Secretary Leavitt for Misrepresenting Certification Issue in Support of Proposed Regulation (8/25)
- HHS Sec. Leavitt Responds Further to Objections, Ignores Substance (8/13)
- HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt Issues Blog Post on Proposed Regulation (8/8)
- Round-Up of Responses to Controversial HHS Proposal (8/6)
RHRealityCheck also has extensive coverage of the issue. We’ll be keeping an eye on this, and will let you know if we find out more.
I’ve been watching this one for a while as well have have blogged about it several times on my Rockspot blog . Just click on the “women’s issues” label in the left-hand column.
I personally think this one, if implemented, will get even uglier than it initially seems on its surface. Since Sec’y Leavitt has commented that it is intended to be ‘broadly interpreted’ … what’s going to happen when an insurance company decides that they have a fit of conscience and refuse to cover various services since their coverage would be facilitating services that offend their conscience. What about women covered by HMOs where one has to have a ‘primary care physician?’ If your PCP has a attack of conscience … not only will they not provide the service, but they’ll refuse to provide a referral … and it will be perfectly legal! You pay for the coverage … but you experience a catch 22 and can never receive the coverage for which you’ve paid!