Protect Women’s Health — Send Your Comments to HHS

Last month, the Bush Administration proposed a dangerous new Department of Health and Human Services rule, which would jeopardize the health of women across the nation. In a NY Times op-ed, Senator Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards explain:

It would require that any health care entity that receives federal financing — whether it’s a physician in private practice, a hospital or a state government — certify in writing that none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable.

Laws that have been on the books for some 30 years already allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further, ensuring that all employees and volunteers for health care entities can refuse to aid in providing any treatment they object to, which could include not only abortion and sterilization but also contraception.

Health and Human Services estimates that the rule, which would affect nearly 600,000 hospitals, clinics and other health care providers, would cost $44.5 million a year to administer. Astonishingly, the department does not even address the real cost to patients who might be refused access to these critical services. Women patients, who look to their health care providers as an unbiased source of medical information, might not even know they were being deprived of advice about their options or denied access to care.

The definition of abortion in the proposed rule is left open to interpretation. An earlier draft included a medically inaccurate definition that included commonly prescribed forms of contraception like birth control pills, IUD’s and emergency contraception. That language has been removed, but because the current version includes no definition at all, individual health care providers could decide on their own that birth control is the same as abortion.

If you read the news, you probably know that many Americans are facing difficult economic times. Millions are uninsured, and even more are under-insured. More and more, people are relying on low-cost health care from providers that receive government funding. And yet, the Bush administration is working to make it more difficult for low-income women to receive necessary medical care? Remember that women might not even know they’re not receiving full information — people tend to trust their doctors, and under this rule doctors would not have to inform patients of options they don’t agree with.

You can help by writing Health and Human Services today. The rule has a 30 day comment period from the public before a decision is made about whether or not to instate it. But time is running out — the deadline is September 25. You have only a couple of days to make your voice heard. Send your letter today, and urgently pass along the message to all of your friends and family!

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