THE DAILY REPORT
NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | More Than 150 Congressional Democrats Express Opposition to Proposed HHS Rule
[Oct. 2, 2008]
Democrats in both the House and Senate submitted letters of opposition last week to a proposed HHS rule
that would allow health care providers who receive federal grants to opt out of care they object to based on moral or religious grounds, CongressDaily
reports. The Senate letter
sent to HHS last week was signed by 28 Senators. The House letter
was signed by 126 Representatives. The Senate letter concludes that the proposed rule is "damaging to the health care needs of women, their families and all Americans and will only serve to cause havoc, not clarity, among employers and employees in the health care field."
Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Patty Murray (Wash.); Reps. Diana DeGette (Colo.) and Nita Lowey (N.Y.); House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Henry Waxman (Calif.) and House Rules Committee Chair Louise Slaughter (N.Y.) led the effort to oppose the rule (Edney, CongressDaily
, 10/2). Both senators on the Democratic presidential ticket, Barack Obama (Ill.) and Joe Biden (Del.), signed the Senate letter (Clinton release
According to the Senate letter, the rule could "complicate the administration of long-standing and vital federal family planning programs, as well as state laws adopted to protect access to contraception." The lawmakers add that because the proposal does not define abortion, it would allow health care professionals to deny patients contraception based on religious belief that contraception is the same as abortion. The letter also said it could limit insurance coverage of birth control.
The lawmakers argue that the rule is a last-minute effort by the Bush administration to restrict women's access to contraceptives. The Democrats also argued that the proposal is discriminatory, writing that it "simply includes language prohibiting discrimination in specific circumstances ... and ignores the inevitable confusion and potential conflict with other employment protections."
HHS spokesperson Christina Pearson said HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt has previously stated that the agency's "goal remains to address the need for greater awareness and compliance with laws enacted by Congress to protect the right of health care providers to practice according to their own conscience." According to CongressDaily
, the regulation would affect each state government and about 584,000 hospitals, medical schools, physicians' offices and pharmacies that receive federal funding (CongressDaily
The information contained in this publication reflects media coverage of women’s health issues and does not necessarily reflect the views of the National Partnership for Women & Families.