Undoing Bush: HHS Conscience Rule Edition

Remember those last minute regulations Bush slipped in on his way out the door in December? One of them was the truly dangerous Health and Human Services "conscience" rule, which, as WaPo explains:

...cuts off federal funding for thousands of state and local governments, hospitals, health plans, clinics and other entities if they do not accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists or other employees who refuse to participate in care they feel violates their personal, moral or religious beliefs.

The rule was sought by conservative groups that argued that workers were increasingly being fired, disciplined or penalized in other ways for trying to exercise their "right of conscience."

Many groups advocating on behalf of women's health, abortion rights and end of life choice have called for the Obama administration to overturn the rule and last month Obama-appointed officials at Health and Human Services concurred:

"We've been concerned that the way the Bush rule is written, it could make it harder for women to get the care they need," said an HHS official who spoke on the condition of anonymity for the same reason. "It is worded so vaguely that some have argued it could limit family-planning counseling and even potentially blood transfusions and end-of-life care."

On March 10th, the proposal to rescind the rule entirely was announced and a 30-day public comment phase instituted. That public comment period ends April 9th. What's likely to happen at the end of this phase? One would think all out repeal, but the administration has signaled its willingness to move on the issue. WaPo again:

Administration officials stressed that the proposal will be subject to 30 days of public comment, which could result in a compromise. They said they remain committed to seeking a middle ground but acknowledged that will not always be possible.

Which underscores how important it is that the public comments they do receive between now and April 9th are not overwhelmingly against rescinding the rule. We need to represent. To that end, Compassion and Choices, a nonprofit that seeks to improve care and expand choice at the end of life, has launched an easy to use public comment tool on their website.

Compassion and Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee at HuffPo:

Now is the time to raise our voices for patient choice and autonomy. From now until April 9th we must urge the Obama administration to repeal Bush's last-minute rule shielding health care workers who withhold from patients any treatment they consider morally objectionable. [...]

The rule protects refusals even if they endanger the patient. It does not require refusers to give notice of a pending refusal. They're not even required to make sure "non-refusing" staff is ready to cover for them during a crucial treatment or procedure. [...]

Should federal law protect the person who delayed a critical treatment or prevented it altogether, even if your loved one suffered or died as a result?

We value our freedoms, especially religious freedom. But every freedom stops at the place where it would injure others. This so called "conscience" rule neither recognizes nor respects that boundary between religious freedom and harm to others.

Let's repeal the HHS "conscience" refusal rule in its entirety. The Bush administration should not be allowed to thwart good medical care for the sake of religious zealotry.

Go to C&C and send a strong message to the Obama administration that you support the repeal of this dangerous holdover from the Bush administration.

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Weekly Pulse: Why the Stem Cell Reversal Is Not a Total Victory

By Lindsay Beyerstein, TMC MediaWire Blogger

This week, President Obama made headlines by reversing George W. Bush's executive order barring researchers who receive federal funds from researching all but a handful of stem cell lines created before 2001.

"Promoting science isn't just about providing resources, it is also about protecting free and open inquiry," Obama wrote. "It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it's inconvenient especially when it's inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology."

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Weekly Immigration Wire: Marching Toward Justice!

 
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By Nezua Media Consortium Blogger  


Welcome to the new White House administration, in which we move forward with purpose.

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Historians Of The Future: Bush Worst President

For George W. Bush, there's no rush to evaluate his presidency. Since the invasion of Iraq, Bush likes to disqualify any instant evaluation of his policies...and insist that historians will look back and appreciate his decisions once they have the benefit of hindsight.

Well, no need to wait:

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Weekly Audit: The Battle for Wall Street Begins

by Zach Carter, Media Consortium MediaWire Blogger 
"I'm not talking about a budget deficit. I'm not talking about a trade deficit. I'm not talking about a deficit of good ideas or new plans. I'm talking about a moral deficit . . . . We have a deficit when CEOs are making more in ten minutes than some workers make in ten months; when families lose their homes so that lenders make a profit; when mothers can't afford a doctor when their children get sick."

-Sen. Barack Obama, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Jan. 20, 2008

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