New protests as anti-women Bush admin. rule goes into effect

Women’s health advocates sharply criticized a last minute Bush administration rule that allows health care providers to deny health care information and services to women. The new rule allows doctors, nurses, pharmacists and technicians to refuse to provide women with information about or access to birth control, abortions, or other medical services based on ideological opposition.

“This midnight regulation,’ said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, ‘undermines this country’s fragile health care system as well as patients’ access to health care information and services.”

Richards added that she hoped the incoming administration would do more to protect women’s health. “We look forward to working with President-elect Obama and leaders in Congress to repeal this disastrous rule and expand patients’ access to full health care information and services — not limit it,” she stated.

According to Planned Parenthood’s estimates, the new rule will restrict health care access at nearly 600,000 health care facilities.

In addition to the specific problems linked to reproductive rights, Planned Parenthood also argued that the rule will worsen an already broken health care system. ‘With more than 45 million Americans currently uninsured, this is no time to make access to health care even more difficult,’ a press statement from the organization noted.

“We are shocked that the Bush administration chose to finalize its midnight regulation and to take this parting shot at women’s health and ignore patients’ rights to receive the critical health care services and information they deserve,” said Richards. “From day one, this administration has made ideology and politics a priority over patients’ rights and needs, and this regulation is no different.”

Following the announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services earlier this year to implement the rule, some 200,000 people, elected officials, medical organizations, and health care advocacy and religious organizations submitted comments opposing the misguided rule.

The new rule fails to provide protections for women patients from discriminatory behavior by health care providers who might be motivated by political bias rather than the medical needs of patients and patrons, the women’s health advocacy organization stated.

In addition to a massive protest from a broad section of the public, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Legal Counsel and the commissioners submitted letters of opposition to this rule, saying it overlaps with existing law, that it is potentially confusing to the regulated community, and that it will impose a burden on covered employers, particularly small employers.