Last December, the Bush administration granted protection to health care workers who refused to perform certain procedures on moral grounds.  If a hospital, health plan or clinic didn’t accommodate the consciences of their employees, they’d lose federal funding.  Abortion rights activists proceeded to take the low road.

But women’s health advocates, family planning proponents, abortion rights activists and some members of Congress condemned the regulation, saying it will be a major obstacle to providing many health services, including abortion, family planning, infertility treatment, and end-of-life care, as well as possibly a wide range of scientific research.

Never mind moral issues, and never mind that plenty of people who have no problem with performing these procedures exist, there must not even be the slightest impediment to these procedures.  Guess we know where their priorities lie.

As well as the priorities of some Democrats in Congress.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill last month to repeal the rule, said: "We will not allow this rule to stand. It threatens the health and well-being of women and the rights of patients across the country." Similar legislation is pending in the House.

No, it does not threaten anyone’s health or well-being.  Allowing an employee to follow their conscience simply means finding someone who’s ethics aren’t similarly bothered.

In spite of these overwrought pronouncements, the rule was put in place.

That was then, this is now.

Taking another step into the abortion debate, the Obama administration Friday will move to rescind a controversial rule that allows health-care workers to deny abortion counseling or other family-planning services if doing so would violate their moral beliefs, according to administration officials.

The rollback of the "conscience rule" comes just two months after the Bush administration announced it last year in one of its final policy initiatives.

This rule is important, mostly to protect health care workers from losing their jobs over their personal beliefs.  They weren’t supposed to be able to lose it, but that didn’t stop the health care industry.

For more than 30 years, federal law has allowed doctors and nurses to decline to provide abortion services as a matter of conscience, a protection that is not subject to rulemaking.

In promulgating the new rule last year, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said it was necessary to address discrimination in the medical field.

He criticized "an environment in the health-care field that is intolerant of individual conscience, certain religious beliefs, ethnic and cultural traditions and moral convictions."

Doctors have been successfully sued for not performing procedures they objected to, so the rule is necessary to give this same protection to other, non-abortion-related procedures. 

The Obama administration claims:

Officials said the administration will consider drafting a new rule to clarify what health-care workers can reasonably refuse for patients.

How about we find out what the administration considers "reasonable" before doing away with this valuable protection?  Or is conscience not that big a deal to Barack Obama?  It doesn’t sound like it.

Filed under: Ethics & MoralityMedicine

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