Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Bush slaps women, gays, PWA’s again.


Today’s NYT Editorial A Parting Shot at Women’s Rights is another reminder that though he is a lame duck POTUS, GWB is still in power and can decide to make the lives of women, particularly poor women worse, with an un-Merry Xmas gift to my sisters.

Undermining women’s reproductive rights and access to health care has been a pervasive theme of the outgoing administration. On his first full day in office, President Bush imposed the “global gag rule,” which prohibits taxpayer dollars from going to international family-planning groups that perform abortions using their own funds or that advocate for safe abortion laws.

So it was unsurprising, but still dismaying, that the secretary of health and human services, Michael Leavitt, chose to extend that dismal record at the last minute with yet another awful regulation. A parting gift to the far right, the new regulation aims to hinder women’s access to abortion, contraceptives and the information necessary to make decisions about their own health. What makes it worse is that the policy is wrapped up in a phony claim to safeguard religious freedom.

The regulation not only affects women, but also gay patients and those people who are HIV poz. The Southern Voice has this article:

Rule change could allow doctors to reject gay patients At issue is HIV testing, artificial insemination, other treatments

The Bush administration issued a “right of conscience” regulation last week that could enable health care workers to deny treatment to gay patients based on religious beliefs, according to activists. Issued Dec. 18, the rule allows the federal government to withhold funds from health care facilities if they do not permit workers to opt out of performing medical procedures they find objectionable based on religious or moral grounds.

The 127-page regulation, which is estimated to cost $44 million to implement, is primarily aimed at allowing health workers to opt out of performing abortions. But Lara Schwartz, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, said the rule could enable health care providers to decline to provide services for gay people – even for treatment of a common cold. “It’s not clear that that is the intent,” she said, “but it absolutely does not preclude that result, which is one of the reasons that HRC submitted comments asking them to draft it differently.” Schwartz said refusing to provide artificial-insemination services for a lesbian couple would be one possible procedure in which medical workers could refuse to participate based on the regulation.

In a Dec. 19 statement, HRC said a health care worker might be able to refuse to administer an HIV test to gay patients and even be exempt from telling them where else they could receive the test.Additionally, pharmacists could refuse to fill a prescription for hormone therapy if they have objections to transgender people, HRC says.

Before Christmas there was also an editorial opinion piece in the Spokane Spokesman Review, emphasizing the impact on poor people :

The rule would hit low-income patients particularly hard, because they rely more on federally subsidized facilities. Women who are raped and could avoid pregnancies with emergency contraceptives can be turned down on moral grounds. They don’t even have to be informed that such pills exist. Once they arrive in the emergency room, their fate could hinge on who is working that night.

Such luck-of-the-draw care cannot be allowed to stand. Health care providers understand this. The American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association oppose the ruling. So does the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, because their pharmacies would be affected. States such as Washington have been battling over these “conscience laws” for years. This rule would wipe out those efforts. That is, if it stands. The good news is that it won’t. U.S. Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y, had already introduced a resolution in November, just in case HHS made such a ruling.

This was a petty move by the administration, and it deserves to be reversed as soon as possible. Health care providers can work this out with their employees without affecting patients or violating civil rights law.

On the state level Illinois has also just dealt another low blow to the cause.

Two Wins For Right Of Conscience

Meanwhile, the Illinois Supreme Court, in another victory for the right of conscience, gave the green light for a lawsuit brought by pharmacies challenging a regulation that requires pharmacists to dispense the morning-after pill. The state Supreme Court reversed two lower court decision holding pharmacies did not have standing to challenge the regulation, even though they were forced to dispense the pill despite moral objections.

“Since Gov. [Rod] Blagojevich promulgated this rule, Illinois pharmacists have been in legal limbo regarding whether the state can force them to violate their consciences despite long-standing legal protections against just such government coercion,” said Kim Daniels, an attorney with the Thomas More Law Center. The law center had filed an amicus brief on behalf of the pharmacists.  

“This ruling clears the way for Illinois courts to determine whether the plain language of state and federal law protects the rights of these professionals not to be forced to act against their most deeply held beliefs,” she said.

The Illinois governor, who is now the center of a major scandal involving President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat, used his executive power to promulgate the rule because it had stalled repeatedly in the Illinois legislature. “Rather than try to get the legislature to pass something – because we attempted to and they didn’t do it – on my own, through executive order action, I forced these guys to fill prescriptions for birth control for women who come in with prescriptions from their doctors,” Mr. Blagojevich said when discussing the regulation.

Pro-life advocates were emboldened by the decision, arguing pharmacists should not have to dispense such a deadly pill against their wishes. They argued the courts need to reinforce, not tear down, the right of conscience.

I sent an email to all of my students reminding them that they should forget that evil does not take a vacation, with a link to NARAL’s action center, and to Planned Parenthood.

NARAL’s Free Will has launched an effort to recruit new folks into the movement.  Last semester I was surprised to learn that a majority of my students had not heard of NARAL.  Though they are aware of Planned Parenthood, since there is a local branch near the college where they go to get birth control, most were not engaged in any activism.

Washington, D.C. – NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation announced today that it is launching free.will.power, an innovative video-based online initiative designed to reach younger activists and recruit a new generation of young women and men into the pro-choice movement.

Please take the time to make sure that your friends, loved ones, co-workers and students are put on alert, and speak out.

Cross posted at Daily Kos



  1. psychodrew

    What if we put pressure on the insurance companies and have them tell health care providers that they will stop doing business with providers who use the gag rule?  Is this a crazy idea?

  2. spacemanspiff

    Thanks for bring this to my attention DV.

    So it was unsurprising, but still dismaying, that the secretary of health and human services, Michael Leavitt, chose to extend that dismal record at the last minute with yet another awful regulation.

    Isn’t this the gig that Blago wanted?

    Looks like the bar is set pretty low for that job.

    (check your email Denise – Felicidades! )

  3. anna shane

    I remember when it became uncool for the first time to express racist sentiments.  Then the bigots were socially unacceptable.  Bush has reversed that thirty-year trend in legalizing hate.  Prejudice has stayed alive and well, but it’s had to be hidden. Bush dragged it out from under the rock. Heck of a job?  

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