At Feministe (where I originally intended on posting this until that jerk Jill beat me to it with a really good post), I’ve been relentlessly updating you on the proposed DHHS rule that aims to limit the availability of abortion and contraception by protecting anti-choice employees of Title X funded institutions from “discrimination” based on their refusal to participate in basic and proper medical care. Well, it’s now my sad duty to inform you that the rule is finalized.
The administration made almost no substantive changes to the regulation following the period of public comment, says Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute. “The 200,000 comments in opposition to the rule they dismiss,” says Sonfield. “They pretend to respond directly to them, but they actually don’t.” The only major substantive change the administration made to the rule is to expand the definition of the workforce the rule applies to — for instance, it now includes contractors.
An early, leaked draft version of the regulation specifically suggested that providers who consider hormonal birth control to be an abortifacient should not have to prescribe it or refer patients for its prescription. The regulation relied on arcane, non-medical definitions of pregnancy to suggest that the belief that pregnancy begins at fertilization is valid and that, a hormonal contraceptive, which anti-choicers claim block implantation of a fertilized egg, is tantamount to abortion. The second, released draft, now published, does not conflate contraception with abortion, but in its broad scope nonetheless provides protections for providers who would like to do just that. “The regulation confirms what we feared,” says Marilyn Keefe of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “HHS refused to allay any of the concerns raised in earlier iterations. Contraception clearly remains a target.”
Great, eh? In other words, the regulation is precisely what we feared; it’s ideological, non-medical bullshit that puts the religious and moral objections of doctors, nurses, receptionists, maintenance workers, etc. above the vital health care needs of women.
Congress has the ability to introduce a motion to disprove, which if passed in both houses and signed by the President would make the rule invalid. Analysts believe it’s unlikely for obvious reasons (even though the period in which to introduce the motion extends into the 111th Congress), including the fact that everyone would have to go on record with their position on a controversial issue.
Planned Parenthood has a petition you can sign asking the Obama Administration to overturn the rule once it takes office. We have every reason to believe, so far, that they will, and RH Reality Check outlines their options. But the fact is that if the rule is implemented at all, many women will become pregnant in the meantime and will pay a sore price.
One of the rule’s more disturbing provisions is the announcement that Title X family planning funding will now be open to grantees who refuse to counsel women on the availability of abortion. Title X has always required that when a woman tests positive for pregnancy, she must be counseled on all of her options, including abortion, and given referrals based on what her expressed interest. The regulations state that Title X funding will be granted “non-discriminatorily” to applicants, including those who refuse to provide counseling and referral for abortion.
In other words, women with limited access will have information withheld from them — often, since we tend to believe that our doctors are telling us the truth, without even knowing it.
Merry Christmas, Bush says to the anti-choice crowd. Clearly, he does in fact have only goodwill towards (rich, white, straight . . .) men.