It isn't news to Broadsheet readers that the Bush administration plans to any day now enact a "right of conscience" rule that would compromise women's access to birth control and abortion -- but today's Los Angeles Times reports that its reach doesn't end there. It could allow providers to also morally or religiously object to sperm donation and artificial insemination.
As previously written about here, the rule allows workers to withhold information about abortion, and to refuse to prescribe (and pharmacists to refuse to dispense) birth control. It also extends the right to refuse to participate in an abortion to all healthcare workers -- not just doctors and nurses, who already have that legal right, but even "an employee whose task it is to clean the instruments." Judith Waxman of the National Women's Law Center told the Times, "This kind of rule could wreak havoc in a hospital if any employee can declare they are not willing to do certain parts of their job."
Basically, your healthcare provider would have a right to make a personal, rather than medical, decision about whether you should start, end, prevent or plan a pregnancy. They would have a legal right to process any or all of your reproductive decisions through their own moral or religious framework before providing you with care. If you find the threat too abstract, the Times offers a handful of concrete, real-life examples:
In Texas, a pharmacist rejected a rape victim's prescription for emergency contraception. In Virginia, a 42-year-old mother of two became pregnant after being refused emergency contraception. In California, a physician refused to perform artificial insemination for a lesbian couple. (In August, the California Supreme Court ruled that this refusal amounted to illegal discrimination based on sexual orientation.) And in Nebraska, a 19-year-old with a life-threatening embolism was refused an early abortion at a religiously affiliated hospital.
Those types of "conscientious refusals," and more, would be defended at an estimated "4,800 hospitals, 234,000 doctor's offices and 58,000 pharmacies," according to the Times.
To those of you thinking, Obama's coming into office! He'll overturn the rule and all will be righted, take heed: "While the rule could eventually be overturned by the new administration, the process might open a wound that could take months of wrangling to close again," says the Times. Sens. Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray have already vowed to wrestle this bruiser to the Senate floor. Here's to hoping they succeed.