Friday, August 22, 2008

Bush Administration Enacts Rule That Could Endanger Women's Access to Birth Control

Well the Bush administration is doing it - condemning millions of women to unwanted pregnancies, allowing health care workers to deny a variety of services to them, just as was promised back on July 31. The Washington Post is now reporting
The Bush administration today announced plans to implement a controversial regulation designed to protect doctors, nurses and other health-care workers who object to abortion from being forced to deliver services that violate their personal beliefs.

The rule empowers federal health officials to pull funding from more than 584,000 hospitals, clinics, health plans, doctors' offices and other entities if they do not accommodate employees who refuse to participate in care they find objectionable on personal, moral or religious grounds.


The proposed regulation, which could go into effect after a 30-day comment period, was welcomed by conservative groups, abortion opponents and others as necessary to safeguard workers from being fired, disciplined or penalized in other ways. Women's health advocates, family planning advocates, abortion rights activists and others, however, condemned the regulation, saying it could create sweeping obstacles to a variety of health services, including abortion, family planning, end-of-life care and possibly a wide range of scientific research.

"It's breathtaking," said Robyn S. Shapiro, a bioethicist and lawyer at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "The impact could be enormous."

The regulation drops the most controversial language in a draft version that would have explicitly defined an abortion for the first time in a federal law or regulation as anything that interfered with a fertilized egg after conception. But both supporters and critics said the regulation remained broad enough to protect pharmacists, doctors, nurses and others from providing birth control pills, Plan B emergency contraception and other forms of contraception, and explicitly allows workers to withhold information about such services and refuse to refer patients elsewhere.
Here's the thing that makes this so despicable. It doesn't just protect a health care worker from personally having to deliver services he opposes on so-called moral grounds, it says that he can refuse to even discuss it or offer an alternative doctor or pharmacist who will perform those services. So, in a small town with only a couple of drugstores, a clerk behind the counter can refuse to sell a woman - or even a man - a contraceptive and refuse to tell that person where else he or she can go to buy it.

We're not talking about a late term abortion here. We're talking about anybody being able to deprive a woman of birth control pills or Plan B after being raped. What about her right to prevent a pregnancy? We're talking about de facto outlawing of, not abortion, but BIRTH CONTROL! And that would include birth control for married people.

The truth is 51 to 53 percent of Americans favor a woman's right to have an abortion, especially if her health or life is threatened or if she's raped. Larger percentages favor a woman's right to prevent a pregnancy with the most effective contraceptives available, birth control pills. But every doctor in every small town across America, every pharmacist, can now become his own legislator, taking away from a couple a fundamental right that is guaranteed them by law.

The truth is the conservative Republicans have been unable to outlaw abortion and birth control for years. Every attempt they've made has backfired because the public just doesn't support it. This is their last shot at imposing their fanatical theocratic will on those who don't agree with them theologically. This is nothing more than an attempt to impose their very sectarian religious views on others. Don't be fooled by it.


MB said...

Well, now that we've got Republicans on record say that it's okay to give special rights to minorities, I can think of a few things to get rolling, come January. I'm sure they won't object.

Isophorone said...

Actually, women who get pregnant outside of marriage are the ones condemning themselves to unwanted pregnancies. I know you think that President Bush (or is it Vice President Cheney?) has all kinds of supernatural powers, but he isn't getting millions of women pregnant. Then again, you probably don't want to discuss former President Clinton in this regard if you get my drift . . . ;)

By the way, the vast majority of americans do not support the Democrat vision of unrestricted pregnancies all funded with taxpayers' dollars.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Iso, my point is that even women who are married might want to practice birth control. So might their husbands. And they may belong to religious denominations that allow it, such as Methodists, Presbytarians, Episcopalians, Conservative and Reformed Jews, etc. Those are all mainstream faiths.

Under this rule, any pharmacist or nurse can deny them birth control too.

Plus, it's not for you or me to put our morality onto somebody else. If a woman wishes to have sex outside of marriage - or a man wishes to - they have a right to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies. In fact, that's behaving responsibly.

And no where does my diary say the government has to pay for it. All I am saying is that they should not enact a rule enabling any theocrat from imposing their personal theology or mores on somebody else. That involves no tax money.

You don't want the government funding birth control. I don't want the government dictating what people do in the privacy of their own homes. Nor do I want clerks in drugstores taking on the role of aribters of morals in this country.

I will have more to say about the dilemma of individual conscience in this situation in another post. It's too complex to be dealt with in the comments section.

Anonymous said...

Basically this boils down to four things. Number one, this entire anti-birth control and anti-abortion stuff is mainly Anglo American men who fear that Anglos may one day not be the dominate race which wouldn't bother this Native American woman one bit even though I myself choose not to have children. Number two, these Anglo American men also hate the thought that women can put off or avoid having babies which means that we can live our lives as we see fit and don't have to live them at the whim of men. These anti-choice men hate that. Number three, what better way to impoverish people than to force them to have numerous children. We all know that there is a war against working class people in this nation and one way to keep people poor is having a lot of children. Is it not interesting how in a time of recession when prices are going sky high, 45 million people can't afford health care, 6 million children go without three meals a day, and a lot of people are losing jobs and homes that it's just imperative to practically outlaw abortion and contraception? Why? So people can go down even further into poverty at the expense of their children. Number four, with the Bush administration promising eternal warfare a la Dick Cheney, how can we populate further armies unless people have 20 kids? After all isn't our obligation to keep the rich in the lifestyles that they are accustomed to living? They definitely think so. You don't see the Bush twins enlisting in the military do you? The next thing I see coming is the medical community finding a way to postpone menopause in women so we can keep having babies until we die at the age 80.

Isophorone said...

It is interesting that you talk about the "dilemma of conscience." Perhaps the example you whould use is that of the conscientious objector who does not want to serve in the military (because he or she does not want to kill anyone). You seem to want to impose your morality on everyone else, actually. This issue works both ways, you know.

I am guessing that Democrat objections are based on a few factors (whether you realize it or not): 1) This is perceived as a threat to the party view of permitting and paying for all abortions regardless of pregnancy progress, geography, etc. Since Democrats also want to have government-run health care, it is important that your own "morals" are imposed on the medical profession, and 2) Giving doctors or pharmacies a conscience exemption is not a palatable option for the trial lawyer lobby, at whose whims the Democratic Party serves (and they are much richer than Bush or Cheney). SHakedown of the medical profession is an important part of the trial lawyer profession.

I would be interested to know if there are any real cases of someone who could not get birth control pills because no local doctor would prescribe them. Then again, once someone has a prescription, they can get them via mail order. They do not have to go to a physical pharmacy anymore. So maybe the world really is not going to come to an end. ;)

As far as abortions are concerned, over 90% are for "social reasons, not out of medical necessity. More than 60% of abortions are performed on black or Hispanic women.

By the way, if you are so concerned about the lack of medical choices in small communities, how will you deal with the greater shortage of medical help once you implement your worldview? I can think of a novel we both have read that helps illustrate that.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

There is so much misunderstanding here that I don't recognize most of your objections as even reflecting my view or that of most liberals. In fact, you've set up straw man arguments and then knocked them down.

Let's start with your assumption that Democrats want government run health care. That's entirely false. Most Democratic health care reforms involve market based plans to extend health care coverage from existing insurance agencies to the public. The plans they envision would be similar to the federal employee health plan, which involves a variety of private insurance and HMO plans. People would be free to choose their plans and their doctors to the same degree they currently do. There are differences between the various reform plans put forth but none of them involve a centralized, government run health clinic system like the one England has.

Since the government would not be paying for health expenses, it would not be paying for abortions.

As far as freedom of conscience goes, nobody is proposing that we change current rules that allow a physician in private practice from refusing to perform an abortion or prescribe birth control pills – though I believe doctors should inform patients up front of any objections they have to providing these services. But nobody forces them to do so and there is no rule that I know of that would compel them in the future to do it. Privately owned drugstores also are free to dispense or refuse to sell whatever medicines they wish, except for providing certain illegal substances. But nobody obliges them to sell something they don’t want to sell.

What this new rule would do, however, is protect an employee who refuses to provide a product that his employer carries. Actually, many large companies do already accommodate staff whose consciences dictate that they not sell birth control products. As long as there is another clerk or pharmacist present who will sell those products, the clerk or druggist can step away from that sale. But what proponents of this regulation want is for an employee to not only have the right to refuse to sell the product but also to have the right to refuse to direct the customer to another worker who will. But would that same rule protect the right of an employee to sell birth control pills if his boss didn’t wish to carry them in the his store?

Do a thought experiment with me. Let’s say I went to work in the emergency room of a Catholic hospital that refused to provide the morning after pill to a rape victim and my conscience told me that I had a moral obligation to relieve that victim’s suffering by providing her with the means to prevent a pregnancy, which she was begging for. Then, let’s say that the hospital fired me for violating their policy. Would the administration’s proposed rule prevent them from dismissing me because I was following my conscience? Would you defend my right to exercise my conscience to help this woman prevent a pregnancy, or would you defend the institution and say that I knew when I went to work for them what their policy and beliefs were? Would you defend my right to sell birth control pills if I worked for a druggist who opposed birth control or defend the business owner's right to run his business as he sees fit?

I strongly suspect that in these situations you would stand up for the rights of the business owner or hospital, not my individual rights.

If a doctor or pharmacist wishes to exercise his individual conscience, he should go into private practice or open his own drugstore and then he would be protected. But that person does not have the right to apply for a job, go to work for somebody who doesn’t share his views, and then deny birth control access to the general public. Any way you slice or dice it birth control is a theological, not a moral or bioethical issue. And drug store clerks do not have the right to push their religion on others. If a customer comes up with a prescription and that clerk can’t serve them, he should refer them to a different clerk who will. But this new regulation would enable a clerk to refuse to do that simple thing. That’s not interfering with his conscience; it’s allowing him to interfere with others’ consciences.