Washington DC — Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, issued a statement Feb. 27 on reports of the Obama Administration’s plan to rescind the Bush Administration’s anti-contraception provider refusal rule.

‘The conscience, or more correctly refusal, clause regulation, issued in the last days of the Bush Administration attacks the health care options open to women and men throughout the United States and has caused American women to lose access to basic reproductive health care services.

‘The refusal clause regulation allows health care providers to withhold treatment, counseling and vital medical information based on their religious or moral beliefs without regard to the needs of the patient. The regulation is not only unnecessary, but significantly undermines patients’ access to critical health care services.

‘While the anti-choice movement has promoted the refusal clause in the name of religious freedom, the rule allows an easy opt-out by health care professionals and leaves women without the care they need and deserve. Catholics across the United States support access to safe and legal abortion services and back family planning and condom use to protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies. While some have erroneously pointed to Catholic teaching to support the imposition of restrictive refusal clauses, Catholic teaching requires due deference to the conscience of others in making decisions- meaning that health-care providers must not dismiss the conscience of the person seeking care.

‘A reconsideration of the so-called ‘conscience’ rule is an important step in ending the restrictions of access to reproductive health care in the US and abroad.

‘Catholics for Choice applauds the Administration’s efforts to make equitable provision of reproductive health services a priority and to repair the damage done during the last eight years. The American public, including American Catholics, support the end of placing politics before health care. Catholics for Choice urges the Obama Administration to rescind this regulation in favor of one that upholds the right to sexual and reproductive health care for all women.’

Catholics for Choice shapes and advances sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to women’s well-being and respect and affirm the capacity of women and men to make moral decisions about their lives.