An interesting move has been made in the fight over George W. Bush’s last-minute DHHS rule that complicates the definition of abortion and revokes funding from those health providers that “discriminate” against employees (or potential employees) on the basis of their religious or moral opposition to abortion and hormonal birth control. It’s one that I, at least, was not particularly expecting:
Seven states sued the federal government on Thursday over a new rule that expands protections for doctors and other health care workers who refuse to participate in abortions and other medical procedures because of religious or moral objections.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut filed the lawsuit in federal court in Hartford on behalf of the states — California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island, which joined Connecticut in the lawsuit. The states are seeking a court order blocking the new rule.
They claim the federal rule, issued by the Bush administration last month and set to take effect on Tuesday, would trump state laws protecting women’s access to birth control, reproductive health services and emergency contraception.
Mr. Blumenthal said the regulations were “flawed and defective” and would “unconstitutionally and unconscionably interfere with women’s health care rights.”
Mr. Blumenthal said the rule “shrouds the term abortion in new and unnecessary ambiguity” and encourages medical providers to define it themselves and deny patients contraception, including emergency contraception for rape victims.
At stake are billions of dollars in federal public health money received annually by the states. The Department of Health and Human Services could order a return of all health and human services money from state and local governments that violate the regulation.
Though I’m admittedly sad to see that my state (New York) isn’t involved with the lawsuit, I’m really glad that numerous states are taking action on behalf of women’s health and in support of reproductive health providers. That alone is excellent news.
Of course, President-Elect Barack Obama has vowed to do what he can to overturn the rule once he is in office, but as previously covered, that may be harder than it initially sounds. Estimates say that the rule could be in effect for 60 to 90 days before Obama is able to overturn it — plenty of time, in other words, to still do lots of damage to the lives of women all over the country.
In more predictable news, as the above article notes, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association are both planning on filing their own lawsuits, in addition to the legislation that was been introduced in the House on Thursday to overturn the rule. In other words? This is ugly, but at least folks are working their asses off to ensure that as little damage is done as possible.
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