It looks like the Bush Administration has decided to use its final days in office to enforce its anti-choice agenda under the guise of protecting “conscience” of health care workers:
The Bush administration, in its final days, has issued a federal rule reinforcing protections for doctors and other health care workers who refuse to participate in abortions and other procedures because of religious or moral objections.
Critics of the rule say the protections are so broad that they limit a patient’s right to get care and accurate information. For example, they fear the rule could make it possible for a pharmacy clerk to refuse to sell birth control pills and face no ramifications from an employer.
Under longstanding federal law, institutions may not discriminate against individuals who refuse to perform abortions or provide a referral for one. The administration’s rule, issued Thursday, is intended to ensure that federal funds don’t flow to providers who violate those laws.
“Doctors and other health care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience,” said HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt.
The rule requires recipients of Health and Human Services funding to certify their compliance with laws protecting conscience rights.
Not surprisingly, the Family Research Council is tickled by the move:
“This is a huge victory for religious freedom and the First Amendment. No one should be forced to have an abortion, and no one should be forced to be an abortionist. These regulations will ensure that conscience protection statutes will be strongly enforced by the government in the same manner as our other civil rights laws.
“Protecting the right of all health care providers to make professional judgments based on moral convictions and ethical standards is foundational to federal law. These regulations will implement conscience protections that have been embodied in U.S. statutes for over three decades. This is also a victory for the right of patients to choose doctors who decline to engage in morally objectionable practices.
“Family Research Council urges President-elect Barack Obama to stand up to pro-abortion forces maneuvering to compel health professionals to participate in abortion. The scope of conscience must be defined by individuals and not the government.”
Of course, this rule change will immediately be reviewed and presumably reversed as soon as Barack Obama becomes president, so FRC’s rejoicing will probably be rather short-lived.