WASHINGTON (CN) – In another last-ditch regulatory move as it leaves office, the Bush administration today will issue a regulation allowing a wide range of medical workers to refuse to offer services that violate their sense of personal morality. The regulation is viewed as a wide swipe against abortion, contraception and the dissemination of medical information, which will affect doctors, nurses, pharmacists – and patients.
The Department of Health and Human Services regulation, to be published in the Federal Register today, will take effect in 30 days. The incoming Obama administration is expected to take steps to undo it, which will be a tangled and surely heated political process.
The rule prohibits recipients of federal funding from discriminating against employees who refuse to take part in procedures because of their personal convictions; and it prohibits hospitals, clinics, private physicians’ offices and pharmacies from forcing their employees to partake in federally funded activities to which they object.
Civil libertarians said the rules could – and are intended to – allow health care workers to refuse to provide contraception, as well as abortion; allow health care workers to refuse to provide medical information and counseling to women who seek services; and violate multiple state laws on medical access, especially for women.