HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Conscience Rule Regulations

The Washington Post's Rob Stein examines the Bush Administration's new conscience rule regulations.  He writes,

The Bush administration yesterday granted sweeping new protections to health workers who refuse to provide care that violates their personal beliefs, setting off an intense battle over opponents' plans to try to repeal the measure.

Critics began consulting with the incoming Obama administration on strategies to reverse the regulation as quickly as possible while supporters started mobilizing to fight such efforts.

The far-reaching regulation cuts off federal funding for any state or local government, hospital, health plan, clinic or other entity that does not accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other employees who refuse to participate in care they find ethically, morally or religiously objectionable. It was sought by conservative groups, abortion opponents and others to safeguard workers from being fired, disciplined or penalized in other ways.

But women's health advocates, family planning proponents, abortion rights activists and some members of Congress condemned the regulation, saying it will be a major obstacle to providing many health services, including abortion, family planning, infertility treatment, and end-of-life care, as well as possibly a wide range of scientific research.

The 127-page rule, which was issued just in time to take effect in the 30 days before the change in administrations, is the latest that the administration is implementing before President Bush's term ends.

The "right of conscience" rule could become one of the first contentious tests for the Obama administration, which could seek to reverse the rule either by initiating a lengthy new rulemaking process or by supporting legislation already pending in Congress.

President-elect Barack Obama's transition team did not specifically address the rule yesterday, but spokesman Nick Shapiro issued a statement that said Obama "will review all eleventh-hour regulations and will address them once he is president." Obama criticized the regulation when it was proposed last summer. . . .

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