Thursday, August 28, 2008

UPDATE: Hope You'll Never Need Family Planning Services

Update to my previous post: Bush Admin Takes Further Steps to Erode Women's Rights

On August 21, 2008, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt released his proposed regulation which will have many far-reaching impacts on women's and family's health issues, triggering a 30-day comment period. You can read the full text of the proposed regulation (as I did) here.

While I didn't find the controversial redefinition of 'abortion' (which would have defined the use of 'birth control pills' as the equivalent of having an abortion) within the text of the proposed regulation, the regulation itself is still overly vague and troublesome. If you'd like to personally express your disdain of this proposed regulation, here's how:

  • You can submit electronic comments relative to this regulation via their Website or via e-mail. To submit electronic comments, go to the Website and click on the link 'Comment or Submission' and enter the keywords 'provider conscience'.
  • You can mail written comments (one original and two copies) to the following address only: Office of Public Health and Science, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: Brenda Destro, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Avenue, S.W., Room 728E, Washington, DC, 20201.
You better believe that members of the religious right will be submitting raving reviews of approval. Those of us who still believe that it's our choice had better seriously considering weighing in on this discussion, before it's all over and we have to begin the struggle anew.

As the proposed regulation is written, it's clear that HHS Secretary Leavitt's intent is to discourage potential abortions under the guise of "discouraging discrimination against conscientious objectors" and in the words of the proposed regulation, "the Department (HHS) intends to interpret the term 'assist in the performance' very broadly" in their endeavor to assure no 'discrimination' takes place. Their example, from the proposed regulation reads:
"For example, an operating room nurse would assist in the performance of surgical procedures; an employee whose task it is to clean the instruments used in a particular procedure would be considered to assist in the performance of the particular procedure."
Thus, if the operating room nurse proclaimed herself a 'conscientious objector,' the procedure would be delayed or cancelled until a qualified individual willing to assist in the procedure could be found. Now, my mama didn't raise a fool. We all know that timing is everything ... and if you can delay the procedure long enough, it's just no longer allowed! You're required to carry the pregnancy to full-term.

The proposed regulation also discusses 'discouraging discrimination/discipline against entities who decline to refer based on their religious beliefs.' Let's explore that one just a bit. Okay, let's say you're a woman who's been brutally raped, and you now find yourself pregnant as a result of that rape. You have HMO coverage and your primary care physician is a religious conscientious objector and refuses to provide you with a referral to a doctor who would consider doing an abortion. Since you're covered by an HMO, you have to get a referral or it's NOT covered. If this regulation goes into effect, the doctor is protected. However, the woman in this hypothetical case essentially gets gang raped, first by the rapist, and secondly by the medical establishment with the assistance HHS. Please explain to me how this highly likely hypothetical case would have 'no impact on family well-being' under section 654 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act of 1999 (as determined by HHS).

Public Law 105-277, Section 654:
(c) FAMILY POLICYMAKING ASSESSMENT.—Before implementing policies and regulations that may affect family well-being, each agency shall assess such actions with respect to whether —
  1. the action strengthens or erodes the stability or safety of the family and, particularly, the marital commitment;
  2. the action strengthens or erodes the authority and rights of parents in the education, nurture, and supervision of their children;
  3. the action helps the family perform its functions, or substitutes governmental activity for the function;
  4. the action increases or decreases disposable income or poverty of families and children;
  5. the proposed benefits of the action justify the financial impact on the family;
  6. the action may be carried out by State or local government or by the family; and
  7. the action establishes an implicit or explicit policy concerning the relationship between the behavior and personal responsibility of youth, and the norms of society.

We have 30-days from August 21, 2008 to comment folks. PLEASE ... Get out your thinking caps and take the time to compose a well thought out objection to HHS Secretary Leavitt's proposed regulation. Remember, he has the authority to put this regulation into effect without Congressional approval. Once in place, however, it will take Congressional action to overturn it!

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