Bush Administration’s Regulation Undermines Women’s Access to Reproductive Health Care

The Bush Administration issued a final regulation Thursday that would undermine a woman’s ability to access important health services and information about all relevant health care options.

The proposed rule, published in August, generated hundreds of thousands of comments, including public opposition from leaders in Congress, governors, medical organizations, patient advocates, faith-based groups and even members of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, the Bush Administration released a final rule Thursday that failed to meaningfully address many of the concerns raised by these comments.

Existing federal laws already protect employees from religious discrimination in the work place and accommodate health care professionals who refuse to provide abortion services, while ensuring patients have access to necessary care. This regulation purports to create a right for individuals and institutions to refuse to provide necessary health care services, including contraception, reproductive health care information, counseling and referrals, which is unprecedented under current laws.

A woman seeking health care should be able to trust that her health care provider will give her accurate, unbiased medical information about all of her options. Navigating the health care system can be overwhelming, and this regulation disparately impacts low-income women who depend on federally-funded safety net providers for family planning services and information. If a medical professional or counselor refuses to provide information about reproductive health care options, including referrals for abortion care, a woman may not have the ability or resources to visit multiple providers to obtain non-judgmental care.

Every woman deserves access to unbiased, medically accurate information so that she can make the right decision for herself in her particular circumstances. We join with the numerous voices opposing this regulation and urge the new Administration and Congress to take steps to reverse this ill-conceived regulation and ensure that women have access to the health care they need.

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