New York—Today, the Center for Reproductive Rights announced its support for three federal lawsuits filed against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The suits challenge a new regulation that will drastically hinder women’s ability to get reproductive health services, including basic care such as contraception, counseling and information necessary to make decisions about their own health. The midnight rule—issued in December just a month shy of President George W. Bush’s departure from office and set to go into effect this Tuesday, January 20—allows people only tangentially related to providing healthcare and an increased number of medical institutions to refuse a woman care based on religious and moral beliefs. Doctors and virtually anyone involved with providing a woman services, such as a receptionist or a health insurance claim officer, could refuse her counseling and information or even a referral. HHS also purposely leaves the door open for healthcare providers to justify refusing a woman basic forms of contraception such as birth control pills and IUDs. The three cases, all filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, were brought by the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, represented by the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Connecticut Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, joined by the Attorney’s General of six other states. Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northup released this statement in response:”The Center for Reproductive Rights supports all efforts to block the enforcement of HHS’ new regulation. The rule is pernicious, seriously violates the medical needs and rights of patients, and the court should block this harmful regulation from going into effect. We also call on the new administration and Congress to take immediate steps to rescind the policy. “Placing the government’s imprimatur on a health policy that gives personal judgments priority over medical advice and leaves the medical definition of contraception open to interpretation is dangerous business. Now, more than 17 million women across the country who rely on public health programs are vulnerable to the whims of others and their access to reproductive health services is no longer guaranteed.
“It is imperative that the federal government take the necessary steps to first, immediately stop enforcement of the regulation and second, begin the process to repeal the policy. “The Center for Reproductive Rights will continue to work with its allies to ensure that the government demonstrates its commitments to women’s health and access to quality reproductive health care.”