NEW YORK – Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed new regulations which would limit women’s ability to get complete reproductive healthcare services. While the rules are not identical to the draft proposal being circulated by HHS last month, the agency continues to create confusion around the definition of abortion and interprets existing conscientious objection laws so broadly that it could result in women not receiving information they need to make informed healthcare decisions.
Janet Crepps, Deputy of the Center for Reproductive Rights released this statement in response:
“Once again, the Bush Administration is politicizing reproductive health services at the expense of the nation’s well-being. Prior to the HHS raising the issue, no health care provider would have objected to providing a woman contraceptives on the grounds that it was the same as performing an abortion. By suggesting in its earlier draft that some methods of contraception could be equated with abortion, HHS exposed women to severe limitations on access to birth control. The only way to protect women at this point is to make explicit in the regulations that health care providers cannot deny contraception by claiming it is the same as abortion. HHS can do this by simply adopting a definition that is consistent with medical authority.
“In addition, the new rules open the door to doctors, entire hospitals, even receptionists refusing women counseling and accurate information on their reproductive healthcare options, including contraception and abortion.
“HHS claims to be protecting healthcare employees. But the truth is this is an outrageous and stealth attempt by the Bush Administration to impede women’s efforts to obtain the full range of reproductive healthcare services. Instead of meddling with rules that have served employees and patients for three decades, HHS Secretary Leavitt should ensure that the regulations do not limit access to contraception or allow health care providers to deny women critical information.”