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Black Women’s Health Imperative on Obama’s Plans for the HHS “Conscience” Rule

March 4, 2009

In the news this week, the Obama administration plans to overturn the Health and Human Services “conscience” rule pushed through in the last days of the Bush administration. I have written a number of posts criticizing the rule both here and at Our Bodies Our Blog – for a quick catch-up, here are 10 reasons why I opposed the rule.

Today, the Black Women’s Health Imperative has released a statement applauding Obama’s intent to rescind the rule. They write:

The Black Women’s Health Imperative (Imperative) commends the Obama administration for taking action to rescind the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) provider refusal or “conscience” rule. Issued in the final days of the Bush administration, this harmful regulation, driven more by ideology than out of concern for patients, seriously undermines women’s access to health care services and information.

The “conscience” rule establishes new protection for health care providers receiving federal funds who refuse to provide medical services they find objectionable, either on religious or moral grounds. Far reaching in its scope, the rule allows health care providers to deny patients access to a wide range of health care options including contraception, abortion, prenatal screenings and family planning information and counseling.

“The Obama administration’s move to repeal this harmful rule is a step in the right direction,’” said Eleanor Hinton Hoytt, President and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative. “Too many women, especially black and low-income women, already encounter barriers when accessing medical care and treatment. This rule further limits our options and violates our right to medical care.”

The Imperative will continue to work with other women’s health advocates in supporting the Obama administration’s commitment to ensuring the rights of all patients to have access to a complete range of medical services and information.

As I mentioned in a comment last night, the newly proposed rule to rescind the “conscience” rule seems to be at the OMB for review with the title “Rescission of the Regulation Issued by the Department of Health and Human Services on December 19, 2008, Implementing the Church Amendments (42 U.S.C. 300a-7), Section 245 of the Public Health Service.” I can’t see a way to link directly to it, but if you go to and select Department of Health and Human Services as the agency, you’ll see it. I expect that at some point soon this new rule (rescinding the old rule) will be published opening a new public comment period. As soon as I find out that there’s a comment period, I’ll let you know.


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