Protect Conscience Rights for Health Care Providers

In the November/December ’08 issue of Lay Witness, we noted that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a proposed regulation that “would increase awareness of, and compliance with, three separate laws protecting federally funded health care providers’ right of conscience.” That regulation was later enacted.

President Obama would like to rescind that policy and is taking steps to do so. provides a good summary of the situation, along with links to other news articles. The USCCB spokesperson on abortion and related issue has also commented.

There is opportunity for action. A 30-day comment period has opened, in which the public can offer their thoughts on the proposal. reports:

Public Comment on Removing Conscience Protections for Health Care Workers Starts Today

By John-Henry Westen

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2009 ( – President Obama’s proposal to rescind a policy that protects the conscience rights of health care workers has now been formally published in the Federal Register, thus opening the 30-day period available for public comment on the proposal.  Pro-life groups in the United States are urging concerned citizens to voice their concerns.

The policy, one of the last acts of the Bush Administration, protects health care workers from being forced to perform and provide controversial services that conflict with their personal, moral and religious beliefs.

Comments may be submitted by email at

According to the Proposed Rule comments should provide the following:

“1. Information, including specific examples where feasible, addressing the scope and nature of the problems giving rise to the need for federal rulemaking and how the current rule would resolve those problems.

“2. Information, including specific examples where feasible, supporting or refuting allegations that the December 19, 2008 final rule reduces access to information and health care services, particularly by low- income women.

“3. Comment on whether the December 19, 2008 final rule provides sufficient clarity to minimize the potential for harm resulting from any ambiguity and confusion that may exist because of the rule; and

“4. Comment on whether the objectives of the December 19, 2008 final rule might also be accomplished through non-regulatory means, such as outreach and education.”

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