Bush Regime Issues Attacks on Women’s Rights through “Protection Rule”


By Kenneth J. Theisen
For those who believe the Bush administration is beyond its ability to inflict damage, a recent federal regulation refutes the argument. On December 18, 2008, in a gift to Christian fascists and their other die-hard supporters, the Bush regime launched a misogynistic (woman hating) attack on health care access rights of women. It further attacked the reproductive rights of women as it has been doing the last seven plus years.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a final 127-page rule that will go into effect on January 20, 2009, Bush’s last day in office. The new federal regulation cuts off federal funding for any state or local government, hospital, health plan, clinic or other entity that does not allow doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other employees to refuse to participate in care they find ethically, morally or religiously objectionable. The regulation, supported by the far-right, will create obstacles to the provision of health services such as abortion, family planning, infertility treatment, and even end-of-life care. It will also interfere with scientific research involving these areas and others. (In the words of the rule, "These laws are intended to protect the conscience rights of all individuals participating in health care services, and research programs.")



The Bush administration bills it new regulation as the "right of conscience rule” but it is nothing more than an attack on people’s rights to seek the medical care to which they are entitled. The regulation would be more accurately named “the misogynist’s discrimination protection rule.” The law will allow discrimination against unmarried women and lesbians. Fertility doctors who have refused to help unmarried women and lesbians conceive by artificial insemination will now be protected in their discrimination. Will the new rule protect racists? If a doctor has religious beliefs against the “mixing of the races,” will the doctor be allowed to withhold fertility treatment to a couple of different races?

Pharmacists and others who have repeatedly turned away women seeking birth control and morning-after emergency contraception pills will also be the beneficiaries of the new rule. Therapies and procedures that become available as a result of using embryonic stem cells may also be refused because they are obtained by “destroying” very early embryos.

Rape victims may also be negatively impacted by the regulation. Many states have laws that require hospitals to offer rape victims the morning-after pill. The new law may now interfere with the enforcement of this law as medical providers can claim that the use of the pill is tantamount to abortion and that it violates their ethics, morals, or religious views to issue the pill or even inform the patient that such a treatment is available. But then this is consistent with the view that a woman should be forced to give birth to the child of her rapist. This view has been defended by some of Bush’s most ardent supporters in the so-called “pro-life” community. 

It appears that the law will force medical facilities that provide family planning and fertility services to hire employees even if they oppose abortions or in vitro fertilization procedures that can destroy embryos. Those that may be bigoted against unmarried women, lesbians, or others receiving services of a fertility clinic will now have to be hired by the clinic.

According to HHS, the regulation will require more than 584,000 (including at least 4,800 hospitals, 234,000 doctors’ offices and 58,000 pharmacies) health-care organizations and providers to provide written certification of their compliance by October 1, 2009. Failure to do so will result in the cut off of federal funds or even the requirement that they return federal funds previously received.

The regulation is opposed by the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The law is also very broad in its coverage. It can cover any worker with a "reasonable" connection to objectionable care, such as ultrasound technicians, nurses’ aides, secretaries, and even janitors or others who might have to clean equipment used in procedures they deem objectionable. The rule as written allows workers to refuse to dispense birth control pills, plan B emergency contraceptives, and other forms of contraception, or even to inform patients where they might obtain such care from other providers. In addition, the law may allow workers to refuse end-of-life care or to withdraw such care.

This law may be a back-door bailout bill for insurance companies, too. It could provide an economic incentive to insurance companies to “find religion or morals.” It allows them to refuse to pay for abortions or any other health care practice that violates a "religious belief or moral conviction." Is it possible for insurance companies to have morals?

It remains to be seen what the incoming Congress will do about the new regulation. Under the Congressional Review Act, the next Congress has 75 legislative days to pass a "motion of disapproval" regarding the new rule. The motion can pass by a simple majority of both houses. The Obama administration could also issue a new rule, but it would be a time consuming process. It is not clear at this time whether either remedy will occur.

But what is clear is that the Bush regime is not exiting office without attempting to impose its fascist agenda beyond its term in office. This regulation is just one of many it has issued since the election. Others have included regulations attacking the environment or making it easier for Bush’s corporate supporters to rip off the public. 

But then why should the regime stop what it has done for the last seven plus years as long as it can get away with it? 
Will you let them get away with it? 


Main Reproductive Rights Bush Regime Issues Attacks on Women’s Rights through “Protection Rule”


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