February 27th, 2009
05:33 PM ET
5 years ago

White House set to reverse health care conscience clause

The rule protects the rights of health care providers who refuse to participate in certain procedures.
The rule protects the rights of health care providers who refuse to participate in certain procedures.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Obama administration plans to reverse a regulation from late in the Bush administration allowing health-care workers to refuse to provide services based on moral objections, an official said Friday.

The Provider Refusal Rule was proposed by the Bush White House in August and enacted on January 20, the day President Barack Obama took office.

It expanded on a 30-year-old law establishing a "conscience clause" for "health-care professionals who don't want to perform abortions."

Under the rule, workers in health-care settings - from doctors to janitors - can refuse to provide services, information or advice to patients on subjects such as contraception, family planning, blood transfusions and even vaccine counseling if they are morally against it.

"We recognize and understand that some providers have objections to providing abortions, according to an official at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The official declined to be identified because the policy change had not been announced. "We want to ensure that current law protects them.

"But we do not want to impose new limitations on services that would allow providers to refuse to provide to women and their families services like family planning and contraception that would actually help prevent the need for an abortion in the first place."

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Filed under: Health care • Obama administration
soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Pat

    Why should moral health care providers be forced by the government to perform such atrocious, sinister criminal procedures such as abortion? I would like to ask every member in Washington how they would feel if someone in their family got an abortion, especially if the provider was forced to do it because the government said they had to. Do these folks in Washington ever think about these horrible things on a personal basis? For people that claim to be "for the people", they sure don't care about babies.

    February 27, 2009 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  2. Clark

    Perhaps we always needed higher standards for healthcare workers anyway. If your moral beliefs are at odds with your job, you need to make a choice – do you want to be morally true to your beliefs, or would you rather be unemployed. What if you are morally against surgery, or medication (and don't tell me that is ridiculous, because we all know there are people who don't believe in those things)? Jobs have requirements and I doubt that many of us are allowed to decide what we will or will not do at work, and remain employed. It is not about finding a doctor that agrees with your principles, it is about adhering to a standard that everyone should expect when they need care. Free-market healthcare is an insane enough idea without adding cafeteria-style morally to the mix.

    The US ranks 39th in the world in the quality of healthcare. Maybe we should be trying to recruit higher quality, more committed people to a field we are basically failing in compared to vitually every other western nation (where, by the way, medical care is FREE).

    February 27, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  3. Alan

    Hey, I have an idea! Let's kill everyone that is sick or old, it would solve the healthcare crisis and help out on global warming.

    Oh yeah, I want to be on the committee that determines who is sick or old!

    February 27, 2009 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  4. S Callahan

    I was just reading about this on another site....

    This disturbs me...because we all know employers, with Federal funds, will now find ways to 'out' the moral objecter 'under other reasons'. There is no accountablity left if this is removed . Who will goven to prevent discrimnation against those who are against performing abortions? Another consideration is this could have a 'huge' impact on medical care as well...Doctors will migrate to doing 'research' instead of speciality or md care again causing a medical care crisis for the poor....

    President Obama...please do NOT do this!

    February 27, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  5. FreeNLovIt

    We need to focus on prevention and not abortion. Eighteen days after conception, it has a HEARTBEAT. We are killers. People, think of your own HEARTBEAT..

    February 27, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  6. Clark

    Interesting since the California Senate has a joint resolution (SJR 19) that prohibits health care professionals from participating in torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment .....

    so how can the federal government or state governments then want a health professional to participate in the abortions that cut babies up, pulverise the babies' brains, allow their skin to be burned by caustic fluids or simply left on tables and or in trash cans to slowly die without medical treatment after botched abortions?

    are prisoners of war more important than our babies?

    February 27, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  7. my thought

    if people just lived by the word.......this is btwn a woman and her creator.......i personally would not abort a child....this is sticky.

    February 27, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  8. Sue

    Go Obama! Keep uncovering the Bush agenda, and then squash it! We just learned about more underhanded executive orders...find them and rewrite them. restore this country to a democracy and stop the lying and spying that Bush thought was fine.
    Why is what you're doing suddenly "socialism" while Bush's attempt at fascism was considered to be patriotism by the right? Because he's Republican? Because they're all as dumb as he is? Because Rush's agenda actually makes sense to some minority of uneducated fools?

    February 27, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  9. ib

    There is no way that a doctor should be forced to do something that he morally abjects to. It should be his or her decision not the goverment's decision. This is disgraceful and should not take place.

    February 27, 2009 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  10. dumbocrat alert

    this country has survived wars and terrorism and it only took a community organizer to destroy a democracy.

    February 27, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  11. m

    We seem to be losing more and more freedom every day under this new administration.

    I AM PRO-CHOICE, however this is not just about abortion. There are plenty of doctors who perform that proceedure.

    This is about the government forcing citizens (the doctor) to perform procedures and services they may not be comfortable with. Where does it end?

    I am a doctor. If a patient doesn't like my recommendation for care or treatment they can go somewhere else and seek a second opinion.

    That's how it works in the free world.

    I don't want to be forced to do anything nor will I force my patients to do anything.

    February 27, 2009 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  12. yuri

    Health care reform starts now. What remains to be seen is the ultimate upshot of all these radical changes.

    February 27, 2009 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  13. R in Maine

    Bush was unethical and immoral to empower medical workers to deny services to women when they are most vulnerable. Typical! Reverse it now.

    February 27, 2009 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  14. John

    This is a democratic nation and if doctors or nurses want to practice religion, they should go to Iraq or Iran, god of some sort will tell them what to do over there.

    If medical professional people don't like a secular government then they shouldn't take NSF or other government grants. They shouldn't be allowed to practice at facilities that take government grants. If they want to practice medicine by their religious teachings then, they should move to a country that is a religious rule.

    Thanks God, we have a democracy.

    February 27, 2009 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  15. Pat

    A person enters the medical profession because he/she wants to help the sick get better and provide care for their comfort. They did not take the oath to murder babies, and I think they certainly have the right to refuse to do something so horrid – don't you folks have any conscience or care for babies?? Sick.

    February 27, 2009 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  16. jeff

    Obama is wrong on this! In America, the law should provide protection for people with faith! Freedom of speech! why not freedom of conviction?

    February 27, 2009 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  17. GOP = Greed Over Poverty.

    If you are in the medical profession and your morals prevent you from doing your job, you should resign and become a priest or minister and preach the word about the world you like to see.

    February 27, 2009 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  18. Mike Dallas

    Medical professionals can pick and choose which procedures they provide when doing their job, right after soldiers can pick and choose which missions or battles they which to participate in while doing their job.

    February 27, 2009 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  19. Liberalism supports infanticide

    Kill a baby but not a murderer? Pretty much sums up the moral and ethical beliefs of the new regime. They will have to be judged by the almighty when their time comes and I hope they have some flame proof suits where their going. See you in he** Obama.

    February 27, 2009 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  20. jeff

    Why going to a doctor who has a different belief system than you? If you want an abortion, please don't go to a doctor who is against it!

    February 27, 2009 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  21. Diane Dagenais Turbide

    People are confusing their personal freedom in a work place versus the right to the patient to full disclosure of informations and healthcare choices. A healthcare worker has the obligation to give out this full information!

    February 27, 2009 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  22. Julie

    I don't think that a healthcare professional should be forced to do anything he/she doesn't want to do...but a provider can step out out of the way of, but not in the way, of patient care. As long as the patient understands the risks and society is not being compromised, then the patient comes first. ALWAYS.

    February 28, 2009 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  23. arithmetic is liberal

    Why not have judges that refuse to try murder cases?or soldiers that refuse direct orders? How about the line cook at McDonalds who's a vegan?

    If you don't like performing abortions then don't go into reproductive medicine. If you don't like distributing birth control don't be a pharmacist.

    The problem with all this is that if you are living in the sticks, you'd have to drive 100 miles to see a pharmacist who will distribute birth control. And that's not fair or American to say the equivalent of "we don't serve your kind here".

    February 28, 2009 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
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