Obama Administration Proposes to Repeal Bush HHS Rule in its Entirety

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Today, the Obama administration officially proposed a rule to rescind the Department of Health and Human Services regulation that was issued in December under President Bush. The administration is proposing to rescind the rule in its entirety. They are also requesting comments from the public and advocacy groups to provide information about several issues, including specific examples where feasible, “supporting or refuting allegations that the December 19th, 2008 final rule reduces access to information and health care services, particularly by low-income women.” 

“This Bush 11th hour regulation is hopelessly flawed and should be rejected outright. While it suffers from numerous failings, the most glaring defect is it doesn’t mention, much less address, the rights and medical needs of patients,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Specifically, the more than 17 million women across the country who rely most heavily on public health programs are bearing the burden of this rule—a disproportionate number of them low-income and women of color. As it is, these groups already face tremendous barriers getting healthcare, including inadequate funding of medical assistance programs, cultural barriers, logistical obstacles such as inflexible work schedules and insufficient child care.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights along with National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, submitted comments specifically addressing the impact of the rule on low-income women and women of color. We will do the same during this comment period.  

As stated in our previous comments, the regulation has the potential to seriously undermine access to healthcare in this country. It dramatically expands the reach of current federal laws protecting healthcare workers, rather than simply clarifying and enforcing them. It creates uncertainty in a number of areas, including whether provisions that protect those opposed to abortion services can be relied on to deny certain forms of contraception. The regulation also creates potential conflicts with other federal laws, including Title VII, which strikes a careful balance between the rights of employees to religious freedom, the rights of employers, and, in field of healthcare, the needs of patients. The regulation allows a broad range of healthcare workers, including those only tangentially related to the provision of services, to deny information and access to care.