Bush moves to shield anti-abortion health care workers

As the Bush Administration counts down its last days, it announced 8/21/08 the beginning of a thirty-day comment period on a new rule that would empower federal health officials to stop funding more than 584,000 hospitals, clinics, health plans, doctors' offices and other entities if they do not accommodate health-care workers who object to abortion. The regulation would cover
participating in any activity with a reasonable connection to the objectionable procedure, including referrals, training, and other arrangements for offending procedures.
The WaPo's Rob Stein reports August 22 in "Protections Set for Antiabortion Health Workers: Opponents Denounce Proposed Regulation Allowing Federal Officials to Pull Funding" that the the regulation would cost more than $44 million to implement and that Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt justified the rule, saying,
People should not be forced to say or do things they believe are morally wrong...Health-care workers should not be forced to provide services that violate their own conscience.

When asked whhether the regulation would protect health-care workers who consider birth control pills, Plan B and other forms of contraception to be equivalent to abortion, Leavitt said:
This regulation does not seek to resolve any ambiguity in that area. It focuses on abortion and focuses on physicians' conscience in relation to that.
Conservative groups welcomed the rule. David Stevens of the Christian Medical and Dental Association said,

I think this provides broad application not just to abortion and sterilization but any other type of morally objectionable procedure and research activity....We think it's badly needed. Our members are facing discrimination every day, and as we get into human cloning and all sorts of possibilities, it's going to become even more important.
Women's health advocates, family planning advocates, abortion rights activists and others, condemned the regulation, saying it could create sweeping obstacles to a variety of health services, including abortion, family planning, end-of-life care and possibly a wide range of scientific research. Said Robyn S. Shapiro, a bioethicist and lawyer at the Medical College of Wisconsin,
It's breathtaking....The impact could be enormous.