Obama to Rescind "Conscience" Rule on Abortion and Birth Control

By Eliza Strickland | March 2, 2009 7:27 am

woman doctorThe Obama administration is preparing to roll back a rule that prevents discrimination against medical workers who refuse to take part in procedures, provide medication, or hand out information based on their moral or religious beliefs. As 80beats reported in December, the Bush administration pushed the rule through as one of its final policy initiatives. Seven states, including California, Illinois and Connecticut, and two family-planning groups have filed lawsuits challenging the Bush rule. They argue that it sacrifices the health of patients to the religious beliefs of medical providers [Los Angeles Times].

Pre-existing federal law protects doctors and nurses who decline to provide abortion services because of their ethical beliefs, and changing the so-called conscience rule would have no effect on that law. But an official from the Department of Health and Human Services says the Bush administration’s rule is too broad. “We’ve been concerned that the way the Bush rule is written it could make it harder for women to get the care they need. It is worded so vaguely that some have argued it could limit family planning counseling and even potentially blood transfusions and end-of-life care” [Washington Post], an unnamed department official said.

To roll back the rule, Health and Human Services will first have to collect public comments for 30 days, and can then begin the process of enacting a replacement rule. This isn’t the Obama administration’s first foray into the controversies surrounding abortion and birth control. Obama on Jan. 23 reversed [the] controversial “Global Gag rule,” which cut off federal funding for international-aid groups that perform or provide information about abortions [Scientific American].

Related Content:
80beats: Federal Rule Lets Doctors Deny Medical Care Based on Religious Concerns
80beats: Vatican’s New Bioethics Rules Grapple With 21st Century Medical Advances
80beats: Leftover Embryos at Fertility Clinics Pose Troubling Questions for Patients

Image: iStockphoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Jumblepudding

    It’s like the ape touching the monolith all over again.

  • Chris Niemann

    Our future is in the hands of a very capable, new type of leader. Our moral values will be tested. We are in a time of crisis, indeed. Every aspect of President Obama’s leadership ability will be direly needed. We will all be tested from within, as we must percieve our own weaknesses, especially greed. The year 2012 is only three years away. I don’t pretend to know its significance, but the economic news, etc., makes us wonder. Do we have just three years left to prepare?

  • SeanDudeMan

    2012? *Rolls eyes*

  • http://clubneko.net Nick

    Again with the 2012 and Mayans end-of-life on the Calendar. If the Mayans were all-knowing, why didn’t they see the conquistadors coming? End of argument. And even if the end of times is in 2012, who cares? Not like anything can be done so might as well continue enjoying life.

    Back on topic, scientific consensus should trump religious morals in a scientific establishment like a hospital, doctor’s private practice, or pharmacy. They should be left and home and in the church. If you would prefer to live without scientific consensus, please go back to the Dark Ages and huddle in filth and squalor (with the streets quite literally covered in shit. Hey, filth was healthy back then, according to the beliefs of the people at the time!) People keep acting like change is a bad thing and like they want the world to be perfectly preserved as it is now (or right after being formed into their version of ‘perfect’), as if they are the first people to have ever had that thought.

    Think about this: Rome was just fine for 600 years or so before it’s emperor converted to Christianity and imposed Christian morals (whatever they were in the day) on the empire. 300 years later it became ancient history.

    Think about this: we routinely denounce conservative religious democracies. Like Palestine, Lebanon and Iran.

    Think about this: we routinely fete conservative religious democracies, like Israel and the Bush administration, as well as religious non-democracies like Saudi Arabia and Dubai.

  • Nova Terata

    Uhh the Crisis of the Third Century was before Constantine. The fact that the Empire lasted another 300 years after the crisis is pretty impressive.

  • Andrew

    This is horrible news if you value the Constitution. The fundamental right to religious freedom is being harmed, in the name of abortion. This is not an issue or morals or science, it is an issue of Obama being unwilling to protect religious freedom.

  • Teresa-Mary Baran

    Look at this issue as if “you” are the doctor and “you” were being forced to perform the tearing apart and sucking out the brains…ABORTION acturally is this process. Would “you” want to be told that this is your “duty”? No one wants to admit it, but the truth is, as biological science confirms, this is killing a human life similar to Hitler’s orders to his doctors. 50 million and counting in the US alone. Is this what American civil rights is about. Is this right in the constitution? All the founding fathers were against abortion. Look it up!

  • Teresa-Mary Baran

    My son is a doctor. I can not believe I raised him so well in order to have the government tell him he has to kill a baby in order to practice his profession. That breaks my heart. Doctors don’t even take the Oath anymore….”To do no harm.” That tells us something about how far we have come.

  • Ian

    Absolutely nuts – Don’t doctors and nurses already have a right to refuse to undertake a procedure on the grounds that in good conscience it does the patient more harm than good. This doesn’t just apply to abortion, but to any procedure.

    However, abortion is one of a growing number of cases where life is destroyed as a lifestyle choice. I would put it to Obama that if you don’t respect life, you cannot run a good economy. And sadly Obama doesn’t get it.

  • chris bartlett

    Those of you with kids who are doctors who are afraid the government is going to turn them into baby murder’s please read the entire article.

    “Pre-existing federal law protects doctors and nurses who decline to provide abortion services because of their ethical beliefs, and changing the so-called conscience rule would have no effect on that law”

    So take a deep breath and relax. Obama is just trying to undo the draconian damage Bush did before leaving office.

  • chris bartlett

    And I put it to you Ian, Explain to me how anyone who is pro-abortion rights does not respect life, but the majority of anti-abortion supporters also support the death penalty and the war.
    (look it up Teresa-Mary Baran)

    and of course most Pro-abortion supporters are against the death penalty and anti-war

    The entire issue reeks of hypocrisy on both sides.

    And it boils down to only this. A womans Body and her right to choose.

  • Crescentia

    Hey, if abortion is a political issue, they can refuse on political grounds. Or they can refuse on professional grounds, too. Study after study shows the psychological damage done to a woman by experiencing an abortion. They can refuse to encourage women to get an abortion based on the unnecessary risk factors. There are many non-religious reasons that encouraging abortion is not a good choice. They may also feel that abortion isn’t an option to encourage because they don’t agree with eugenics. Most abortions are performed on and targeted to poor, minority women. Religious beliefs are not the only reason people go against abortion as birth control.

  • Chubbee

    I personally would like to put forth the concept of “retroactive abortion”.
    This has real potential, I’m sure we all know several people who would qualify.

  • Crescentia

    No, it boils down to a woman’s body and her right to chose versus an unborn baby and their right to a chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    Just because one can speak and take action and the other can’t doesn’t make the one speaking right, or the only one with rights.

  • chris bartlett

    Crescentia, well said.

    From your point of view.

  • Crescentia

    Chris, coming from your point of view, thanks. It is good to respect each other, even if we don’t agree. I appreciate that.

    I also agree with you on the hypocrisy on both sides. Life is life, old or young, man or woman, good or evil. We live in a world of death, but should we be procreators of death? And how can you live on both sides of the line? Yes, there are circumstances of self-defense in almost all these situations which are so emotionally and politically charged, but these are the exception, rather than the rule. I support self-defense when it comes to an action done to preserve your own life. Not an action done to preserve your social life, to preserve your ego, to preserve your pride, to preserve your pocket-book, etc. This applies, as you said, not only to abortion, but all issues of life and death: abortion, death penalty, euthanasia, war…

    You cannot live on both sides of the line. Can you, Chris? If you support abortion, do you also support the death penalty, war, and euthanasia? Or are you abstaining from choosing a side? (I can’t quite tell from your comment.) For those of you abstaining from choosing a side, let me remind you that there were many in Nazi Germany who refused to take a side as to whether or not the Jews should be protected or eliminated. Let me also remind you of the famous quote, “Evil prevails when good men do nothing.” Life is too important to say, “Let someone else decide, I don’t care.”

  • Brian Mangravite

    Chris Bartlett, arguing that being against abortion but pro-death penalty, pro-war in Iraq is hypocrasy is ridiculous. An infant/fetus is an innocent victim. The death penalty is for those convicted of murder by a jury of their peers. Oh, yeah, that’s the same thing. An adult who knowingly signs up for the military pledging to defend the interests of the US and then has to go to war… oh, yeah, that’s the same as abortion. A jaw-droppingly dumb argument.

  • peter porkpie

    i think if you take on a job like being a doctor including that enormous pay packet then if someone asks you to do an abortion, that is your job, if when im working in a supermarket i have to serve some fat person with chocolate i could refuse on the grounds that i think its going to kill them ..

  • Fa la la

    So… when it happens that end of life decisions are made legal – this law will make it required that doctors and medical organizations are REQUIRED to kill people who want to die.

    Then, with the upcoming medical change from the best and good care to the most economical (passed in that stimulus bill that wasn’t read) for the government (cost effective), the government may decide that some old people simply aren’t worth their medical expenses, medications and managed care providers and opt to off them to save (economical) costs in patient management – so we’ll have doctors and such FORCED to murder people who don’t want to be put to death.

    But, hey, who cares, right? It is just the government dictating what you’re forced to do in your job.

    As for the hypocrisy of being pro-life and pro-death penalty, I clear that up without equivocation – I’m ANTI ABORTION. I’m NOT pro-life. (as I’ll drop any fool stupid enough to break in to my house, have no issue with the death penalty – except that it is too expensive to administer and isn’t done often enough)

  • http://discovermagazine.com John Cassady

    Did you guys even read the article, it’s not like an ER doctor is suddenly going to be forced to do abortions. You people are ridiculous to even imply that anyone is going to be forced to give an abortion. What this law being removed does is makes it where when you go to the doctor that the doctor has to be scientific and not religious, after all they are doctors not priests or rabbis.

    And I agree that the issue of abortion is completely different than war or punishment. Also no one is going to be REQUIRED to kill people who want to die, killing is still illegal, if anything it’s the other way around, the law in place now says that because of ethical and religious beliefs that they can refuse treatment to the old and dying so FA la la can shut up with that one.

    If you are ultra religious, stupid, or ignorant please stop posting on this SCIENTIFIC website, I read this stuff to get a sense of hope and pride at humanities accomplishments and yet when I read the postings all I get is the feeling that there are countless people still trying to live in the dark ages. Religion has been holding humanity back ever sense the first ignorant bastard created a fairy tale to explain the world. Please whine and complain elsewhere because the scientific community is still going to move forward using reason and logic no matter how much you pray for us to stop. Grow up and accept that no one is coming down from heaven to take you to paradise, this is the world we have and we need to accept responsibility for it instead of wishing for a father figure to come down and rescue us from ourselves.

  • Crescentia

    I would just like to point out that, after re-reading these posts and doing a (Ctrl F) Find search of this page I find no “ultra religious” posts. There has been no previous mention of “God”, “Allah”, “Buddha”, “Vishnu”, or “Jehovah”. Not one post suggests that anyone is evil or judged, or even that abortion is morally wrong. Many have suggested they feel that way, but no one has brought any judging tone to these posts until you, John. Yes, this is a scientific website. One in which knowledge and learning, not prejudice, should prevail. Contrary to what you seem to believe, religion and faith are not mutually exclusive to science. Many great scientists were very strong in their faith, and I doubt they followed it blindly. There HAS been a lot of discussion on this page about religion in general and its role in medicine. That IS what the article was about. You can’t expect people not to discuss what is blatantly presented in the article. You are free to show your beliefs in life, and so is everyone else. Don’t let your fight to think for yourself keep others from doing the same.

  • http://discovermagazine.com John Cassady

    I agree that science and religion are not exclusive but I can’t agree that there are no judgments before my post. I admit my comment could be considered harsh but I still believe it’s the truth. And I am certainly not trying to keep others from thinking, I’m just trying to get them to think for themselves as opposed to regurgitating other peoples judgmental rhetoric. You see I do believe the quote that evil prevails when good people do nothing, I just happen to believe that many peoples religious beliefs are so wrong that they border on evil masking itself as righteousness. After all ignorance provides the easiest path for evil to follow. But now I’m the one talking religion instead of discussing the article.

    This law needed to go for the sake of everyone’s health, including the poor girls who are seeking abortion. Of all the people that should not be in their way doctors are on the top of the list. And for all those that would judge them I take a quote from the bible and say, “let the one who has not sinned cast the first stone.” It goes something like that anyway, you get my point.

  • Nobody

    “Based on their MORAL beliefs” Which mean that no matter what WE think is right or wrong, we still have to do the precedure. No matter what the precedure entails.

    Does this sound OK to you?

  • pabloDee

    This is so emotive as everyone knows deep inside that abortion is the taking of a life.

    A woman does have control of what happens to her body but that is another person inside her body.

    I’m not advocating abortions not be available but let us stop the pretense that it is not the taking of a life.

    I am amazed we allow a woman to decide to have an abortion when there are no medical complications but will not allow euthanasia for those critically ill and suffering.

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