Notify HHS Secretary Leavitt of your Opposition to “Conscience” Regulation

On August 21, the Bush Administration released a draft regulation that would limit the rights of patients to receive complete reproductive health information. There is a 30 day comment period. It ends on September 20.

Action Requested
Send your comments to Secretary Mike Leavitt at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Background
The new rule expands the universe of providers that can refuse contraception and other health services, including abortion based on their conscience. This means that women may be denied access to birth control options if their provider is morally opposed to that option.

The rule leaves open the possibility that — based on religious beliefs — institutions and individuals can deny women access to birth control. It also permits individuals to refuse to provide information and counseling about basic heath care services. Additionally, it expands existing laws by permitting a wider range of health care professionals to refuse to provide even referral information for abortions.

The regulation puts other federal and state laws and policies that protect women’s access to birth control in serious jeopardy, including state laws that require hospitals to provide sexual-assault survivors with access to emergency contraception.

Currently, there are “crisis pregnancy centers” that look like health centers, but offer woefully limited services and only provide the reproductive healthcare options that fit their agenda: NO birth control, NO abortion, and NO choice for women and families who need it.

At a time when 17 million women are in need of publicly-supported reproductive health care services, this regulation has a disparate impact on the low-income, uninsured and under-insured women who rely on these programs for their health information and services.

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