Women's reproductive choice suffered a legal blow this week, with the Bush administration issuing a new rule that allows medical staff who have moral objections to women's autonomy to refuse treatment:
The controversial rule empowers federal health officials to cut off federal funding for any state or local government, hospital, clinic, health plan, doctor's office or other entity if it does not accommodate employees who exercise their "right of conscience." It would apply to more than 584,000 health-care facilities.
It lets anyone off the hook who works in these facilities - doctors, nurses, technicians - and would make it significantly harder for women in rural areas to access contraception or abortion. If someone feels that they don't want to provide a treatment or prescribe a pill to a woman, they don't have to anymore.
This rule is basically the opposite of civil rights legislation - it allows for medical staff to discriminate against women if they want to under the misguided notion that women can just seek another facility.
RH Reality Check also notes that groups that apply for Title X funding don't have to even inform women that abortion is an option:
One of the rule's more disturbing provisions is the announcement that Title X family planning funding will now be open to grantees who refuse to counsel women on the availability of abortion. Title X has always required that when a woman tests positive for pregnancy, she must be counseled on all of her options, including abortion, and given referrals based on what her expressed interest. The regulations state that Title X funding will be granted "non-discriminatorily" to applicants, including those who refuse to provide counseling and referral for abortion.
In fact, it's unclear if a clinic or organization, when hiring, is even allowed to ask a candidate if they're willing to provide these services.
It seems that the right has succeeded in at least normalizing the idea that if you don't want to do something, if you feel that it's wrong, then there should be no consequences to you not doing it (yet they don't seem to feel the same way about soldiers who object to being deployed to an oil war in the Middle East...). If these people don't want to perform services necessary to their job, they should definitely consider another line of work.
This isn't a case of accommodating a few people who have religious or moral beliefs that complicate their presence in the workplace, like people who need to take religious holidays that aren't recognized by the government. These people are opposed to one of the foundations of their profession, namely helping improve the quality of people's lives, and are only opposed when it comes to women who are patients. This isn't about accommodating people who want to, in good faith, work; this is about changing the fundamental purpose of certain medial institutions to conform to a small group of people's ignorance.
Which would probably explain why the Religious Right is so happy about this rule.
Many people are pointing out that Obama will likely overturn this rule when he gets in office, but let's think about what Bush just did here. He had all of 8 years to pass a rule like this, and yet he waits until the last election of his term is over to pass it. He knows that it's unpopular and that it wouldn't have done anything to help the party before the election.
But what it does do is force Obama to overturn it when he gets into office. Hey, you know that alliance Obama's trying to build with "new" evangelicals like Rick Warren who consider abortion a "non-negotiable" issue? It seems like Republicans found a monkey wrench to throw into that one.
That's Bush: playing politics with less important people's bodies for 14 years. Why should he stop now?