The Right’s Scared, Last-Minute, Month-Old Protection

Just before leaving office, the Bush Administration announced a new rule designed to protect the “consciences” of health care providers who oppose abortion and other medical procedures on religious or moral grounds.

As the New York Times reported in mid-December of last year:

The rule prohibits recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and health care aides who refuse to take part in procedures because of their convictions, and it bars hospitals, clinics, doctors’ office and pharmacies from forcing their employees to assist in programs and activities financed by the department.

This change wasn’t about protecting heath care workers who do not want to participate in abortions, as that sort of protection has existed for decades, but rather about protecting workers who consider things like birth control to be forms of abortion.

At the time this change was made, it is abundantly clear that then President-Elect Obama would review and most likely reverse this last minute rule change once he took office and it looks like that is exactly what he is doing:

The Obama administration’s move to rescind broad new job protections for health workers who refuse to provide care they find objectionable triggered an immediate political storm yesterday, underscoring the difficulties the president faces in his effort to find common ground on anything related to the explosive issue of abortion.

The administration’s plans, revealed quietly with a terse posting on a federal Web site, unleashed a flood of heated reaction, with supporters praising the proposal as a crucial victory for women’s health and reproductive rights, and opponents condemning it as a devastating setback for freedom of religion.

And, of course, the Religious Right is livid:

But the Family Research Council, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and others condemned it.

“It is open season to again discriminate against health-care professionals,” said David Stevens, head of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations. “Our Founding Fathers, who bled and died to guarantee our religious freedom, are turning over in their graves.”

“I think what was in place was as good as one could find in terms of seeking and securing common ground,” said the Rev. Frank Page, the immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and another member of Obama’s faith council. “It’s a matter of respect. I felt like what was in place was that middle ground of common respect.”

As the NYT reported back in December, the measure didn’t even go into effect for 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register, meaning that it has officially been in place for a little over a month. Until Bush implemented this unilateral last-minute change just before he left office, this rule had never even existed and has now been in place for all of a few weeks – yet, to here Religious Right leaders tell it, President Obama is set to undo some age-old “compromise” that will cause the Founding Fathers to turn over in their graves.