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HHS “Conscience” Rule All but Official

December 18, 2008

Well, the official HHS “conscience” rule has been submitted for publication in the Federal Register, to take effect 30 days after publication (which will likely occur tomorrow). It’s currently in the list of public inspection documents for tomorrow’s Register, and you can view the PDF of the official rule here.

Emily at RH Reality Check notes:

The administration made almost no substantive changes to the regulation following the period of public comment, says Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute. “The 200,000 comments in opposition to the rule they dismiss,” says Sonfield. “They pretend to respond directly to them, but they actually don’t.” The only major substantive change the administration made to the rule is to expand the definition of the workforce the rule applies — for instance, it now includes contractors.

I also noticed that the Department acknowledges that many comments came in regarding the lack of a definition for abortion, and then specifically declined to add a definition, noting only that “questions over the nature of abortion and the ending of a life are highly controversial and strongly debated” – which doesn’t at all address the concerns raised by many that this rule is deliberately vague as to encompass contraception as abortion and therefore encompass contraception refusal in addition to the previously existing and protected right to not perform abortion.

[Hat tip to Emily's post at RHRC and Sheila at MergerWatch]

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