HARTFORD (CN) – Connecticut, California and five other states sued the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary on Thursday, challenging a new regulation that allows pharmacists and nurses to refuse to provide contraceptives if it offends their “ethical, moral or religious” sensibilities. The new rule is scheduled to take effect on Inauguration Day.
The attorneys general of Illinois, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Oregon joined Connecticut as plaintiffs against Secretary Michael Leavitt.
They claim the new HHS rule, published in the Federal Register on Dec. 19, is unconstitutionally vague by design. “Through its intentional vagueness, HHS is encouraging and empowering individuals to employ their own definition of abortion on an ad hoc basis, without providing advance notice to states, their employers or their patients. HHS’s refusal to define abortion, or at a minimum expressly exclude contraception from its definition, is exacerbated by the history of this particular regulation,” says the Federal Court action.
The attorneys general claims that after the HHS’s proposed regulation was leaked to the media, in a form that defined abortion, the HHS changed the wording of the regulation and published it in the Federal Register without seeking comment, in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.
The attorneys general also claim the regulation violates the Spending Clause of the Constitution “because it is so vague as to fail to give the states, generally, and plaintiffs, in particular, adequate notices at to what conduct it purports to prohibit.”
The National Families Planning and Reproductive Health Association filed a separate complaint against Leavitt in the same court.