57 Leading Groups Urge Administration to Abandon Proposed Rule that Would Limit Women’s Access to Essential Medical ServicesDigg This!
Dear Secretary Leavitt:
The undersigned medical, public health, religious, advocacy, and research groups committed to women’s health strongly oppose the Department of Health and Human Services’ draft regulations that could significantly limit women’s access to basic reproductive health services, including some of the most common forms of birth control. If implemented, these regulations may preempt state laws that protect women’s access to health care and undermine the nation’s fragile network of safety net providers that serve low income women. We strongly urge the Department to immediately abandon its effort to bring about these ill-conceived and harmful policy changes.
The Department claims that these regulations are needed to educate the public and the health care industry about the scope of certain existing federal refusal clauses. However, contrary to Congress’ intent, the draft regulation essentially rewrites those laws to permit institutions as well as individuals to refuse to provide women access to not only abortion, but to contraceptive services and information. Moreover, this rule permits health care providers to refuse to perform any service they deem morally objectionable – which raises critical questions about access to all health care services.
Increasing federal exemptions for individuals and institutions that deny women access to basic information and contraceptive services is especially egregious in light of our current national health care crisis. Seventeen million women are in need of publicly funded contraceptive services. Given this need, the Administration should be working to increase women’s access to health care rather than erect additional barriers. Indeed, these proposed changes are contrary to what the American public wants – 73% of Americans strongly support policies that make it easier for women to obtain contraceptive services.
Despite overwhelming public support for contraception, the draft rule seeks to limit access by deliberately confusing contraception with abortion. According to HHS’s proposal, abortion can now be defined to include “any of the various procedures—including prescription%2