HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Friday, January 16, 2009

States File Lawsuits to Stop Federal Conscience Clause

Several news outlets are reporting on the lawsuit filed by seven states and other organizations to prevent enforcement of the new federal provider conscience clause legislation. reports,

Seven states and two organizations have sued the Bush administration in an attempt to block a federal regulation that would further protect health care workers who refuse to perform abortions or other medical procedures because of religious or moral reasons. 

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal filed a lawsuit Thursday on behalf of his state, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island. Blumenthal said the regulation would put women's health care at risk and would undercut state contraception laws.  "On its way out, the Bush administration has left a ticking legal time bomb set to explode literally the day of the inaugural and blow apart vital constitutional rights and women's health care," Blumenthal said in a statement. "Women's health may be endangered -- needlessly and unlawfully -- if this rule is allowed to stand."

He said the regulation "intentionally shrouds" abortion in "new and unnecessary ambiguity," encouraging individuals to define it and to "deny virtually all forms of contraceptions, even emergency contraception to rape victims." . . .

The Department of Health and Human Services said the regulation would allow the federal government to withhold federal funds for state and local governments, health plans and health care facilities that do not follow existing federal laws that ban discrimination against doctors and other health workers who refuse to participate in procedures such as sterilizations or abortions or to make referrals for such procedures.

"We have not had an opportunity to review the lawsuits and we will respond to the court on any pending litigation," department spokeswoman Rebecca Ayers said in an e-mail. "The department followed appropriate procedures to put the regulation in place and the regulation is fully supported by law." . . .

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