“The Bush Administration prevailed, but nobody won today. The Bush years have been catastrophic for women’s health. More families uninsured and underinsured. More skyrocketing health care costs. More challenges to women seeking basic reproductive health care. Today the Administration put in place the final piece of that shameful legacy by finalizing ill-conceived, unnecessary, dangerous regulations that dramatically undermine access to reproductive health care services. In doing so, it ignored an avalanche of comments from the medical, legal, women’s and other communities — and from its own EEOC urging a stop to these regulations.
Reproductive health care is primary care for most women. The regulations the Administration finalized today will make it easier for providers to refuse patients vital health services, and harder for patients to learn about their health status and options. The new regulations will make it especially difficult for some 17 million low-income women to get the family planning services and information they need to prevent unintended pregnancy.
Current law already allows employees at federally funded clinics and other medical providers to refuse to provide abortion or sterilization services if doing so violates their religious or moral beliefs. There was no need for today’s action.
Despite paying lip service to some objections, HHS failed to make any substantive changes that address the rule’s potential harm. These regulations leave the term “abortion” undefined, so individuals and institutions are free to classify birth control as abortion and restrict related information and services. This interpretation goes far beyond current law, which already accommodates providers who do not want to offer reproductive health services because they have religious or moral objections, and opens the door for insurance plans, hospitals, pharmacies, doctors, nurses and even administrative staff to: deny women access to contraception; undermine Title VII, which carefully balances protections for the religious beliefs of employees with protections that ensure that patients get access to health care services and information; and make it possible for any employee of a health care provider receiving federal funds to refuse to treat, or provide information to, any individual receiving any service, without regard to a patient’s needs.
At a time when reproductive health clinics are woefully under-funded, and women in this country experience millions of unintended pregnancies each year, the Administration should have been looking to increase not restrict women’s access to family planning services.
Voters soundly rejected the anti-choice agenda in four votes in four very diverse states in November. We hope that the new Administration and Congress will say ‘no’ to these dangerous regulations as well. But sadly, in the time it takes to reverse them, more women will struggle without the preventive care they need to avoid unintended pregnancy. This is a travesty.”