Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The wrong family plan

A federal push to let healthcare workers refuse services is really an assault on reproductive rights.

September 24, 2008

Here comes another sneak attack on family planning by the Bush administration. Masquerading as a measure to protect healthcare providers from "morally coercive or discriminatory practices," a rule change proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services would require healthcare facilities to certify in writing that their workers do not have to assist with procedures they find objectionable.

This isn't a matter of religious freedom clashing with private liberties. Healthcare providers who do not want to provide abortions or sterilization have been protected from discrimination by the federal Church amendments since the 1970s. This provision is an attempt to roll back the clock on reproductive rights to the early 1960s, when doctors could be arrested for selling contraceptives even to married couples. (It took an activist, liberal court to wipe out that anachronism.)

An early draft classified birth-control pills and certain other contraceptives as "abortions," saying they take "the life of a human being." That language was removed after an outcry, but the current version is almost as bad. It gives no definition of abortion, leaving it up to the individual provider. It's equally unclear what else might be morally objectionable. Providing HIV tests? Treating the children of same-sex couples? Giving a rape victim emergency contraception, or delivering life-prolonging treatments to seniors?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 98% of women of reproductive age in the U.S. have used contraceptives; the pill is the leading method among young women, and sterilization the preferred method of women over 35. But should Health and Human Services or the president permit this change -- congressional approval is not necessary -- husbands and wives would share the decision about whether to have children with a pharmacist at a CVS, a volunteer at a federally funded clinic or a second-year medical resident. So much for individual freedom.

Only two days remain in the public comment period, and then the department will make a decision. Congressional Democrats are vigorously opposing the change: Barack Obama has protested to the department, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has been a leader in the fight. GOP presidential nominee John McCain, however, has been conspicuously silent, and he needs to speak up. If this rule change goes into effect, 98% of women of childbearing age will be looking to the next president to defend their rights and void this rule.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|