19 September 2008

this is an outrage.

The following article can also be found here. I have posted it in full because I find the proposed rule so upsetting and despicable.

"September 19, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor

Blocking Care for Women

LAST month, the Bush administration launched the latest salvo in its eight-year campaign to undermine women’s rights and women’s health by placing ideology ahead of science: a proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that would govern family planning. It would require that any health care entity that receives federal financing — whether it’s a physician in private practice, a hospital or a state government — certify in writing that none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable.

Laws that have been on the books for some 30 years already allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further, ensuring that all employees and volunteers for health care entities can refuse to aid in providing any treatment they object to, which could include not only abortion and sterilization but also contraception.

Health and Human Services estimates that the rule, which would affect nearly 600,000 hospitals, clinics and other health care providers, would cost $44.5 million a year to administer. Astonishingly, the department does not even address the real cost to patients who might be refused access to these critical services. Women patients, who look to their health care providers as an unbiased source of medical information, might not even know they were being deprived of advice about their options or denied access to care.

The definition of abortion in the proposed rule is left open to interpretation. An earlier draft included a medically inaccurate definition that included commonly prescribed forms of contraception like birth control pills, IUD’s and emergency contraception. That language has been removed, but because the current version includes no definition at all, individual health care providers could decide on their own that birth control is the same as abortion.

The rule would also allow providers to refuse to participate in unspecified “other medical procedures” that contradict their religious beliefs or moral convictions. This, too, could be interpreted as a free pass to deny access to contraception.

Many circumstances unrelated to reproductive health could also fall under the umbrella of “other medical procedures.” Could physicians object to helping patients whose sexual orientation they find objectionable? Could a receptionist refuse to book an appointment for an H.I.V. test? What about an emergency room doctor who wishes to deny emergency contraception to a rape victim? Or a pharmacist who prefers not to refill a birth control prescription?

The Bush administration argues that the rule is designed to protect a provider’s conscience. But where are the protections for patients?

The 30-day comment period on the proposed rule runs until Sept. 25. Everyone who believes that women should have full access to medical care should make their voices heard. Basic, quality care for millions of women is at stake.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is a Democratic senator from New York. Cecile Richards is the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America."



Big Sister said...

hmmm... As a specialist in an area very close to women's health, I have to wonder about the true reality that would come from such a change in law. In my professional opinion, I would have to say not much. All of the physicians and medical staff that I know and have known, have a standard of professionalism that doesn't allow personal beliefs to interfere with the care that they give. My professional peers and I have had to face a plethora of emotionally and socially unsettling issues that the majority doesn't even know happens day to day. There have been times when I have asked to come off a case because it was just too much emotionally and faced no repercussions. Medical professionals already have this as an unwritten right (and often a written right in their facility's guidelines) We all agree to "first do no harm" which in most cases negates all of those issues mentioned. Perhaps it is alarming to some who believe that health care is run by a bunch of bible thumping right wing extremists, but in my experience the patient always comes first and the rape victim will ALWAYS get the help she needs. As much as I hate to say it, I think this is just liberal propaganda.

Big Sister said...

Additionally, as a medical professional I find in insulting that someone thinks that that is what wound become of healthcare. I think it's just another example of politicians being out of touch with those they serve. The fact that political action groups in both directions 1) think that this is needed and 2) think that having this new right would really change the way that people receive healthcare services, is absolutely ridiculous. Unlike politicians, medical professionals actually have the best interests of those they serve in mind.

melanie said...

I appreciate your comments. My reaction was so visceral because of what I am seeing in my research. Namely-- in Utah, as with many other places-- following the Roe v. Wade decision, legislation was passed year and year to essentially restore the limitations on abortion that had existed before. As Utah is an "abstinence only" sex-ed state and has such stringent parental notification laws, many young people have restricted access to information and services they might benefit from. This applies particularly in rural areas of the state that are already severely underserved in terms of numbers of doctors to choose from. My concern is that some doctor somewhere would deny someone access to what they need under the auspices of this rule and the patient would have no other options. Similarly,knowing how some activists operate in this great state, that doctors not refusing to provide these services would be somehow blacklisted. I am concerned that this rule would carry symbolic power in chipping away at rights that have already been severely impinged or compromised in certain parts of the country.

Because the Department of Health and Human Services is run by former Utah governor Mike Leavitt and has previously tried to define birth control as abortion, I am extremely wary of this move and the motives behind it. If you look at his biography on the DHHS webpage, you can note his that he is proud of his efforts to "transform the Nation’s health care sector into a value-driven health care system." I don't trust that those values are necessarily in line with my own, given his record of collaboration with the ladies I study.

If there's not a need for the rule, then there should be no reason to pass it. I would rather overreact than support something by my inaction. Such rules carry too much power in creating a culture in government that is too comfortable with encroaching upon people's rights.

Michaele said...

I totally agree with Melanie- I'm glad that the majority of people in the healthcare community put the patients' needs first but there are too many places- like in rural areas- where people don't have options. Plus education is a huge issue, if doctors don't tell their patients what their options are some people won't know what else is out there. (Sorry if that made no sense). I used to volunteer at a hospital and worked with patient education and a lot of people don't know what's available to them it's important that doctors inform their patients.

In this country we have a poor history when it comes to women's health- this has started to change but laws like this can really set us back.

And, I don't understand why so many people feel justified in forcing their beliefs on other people. I might not agree with abortion and you may not like birth control but who are we to make those decisions for anyone else.