Health Law

Proposed Reg Allows Health Workers to Opt Out of Birth Control, Abortions

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A controversial draft regulation would require hospitals and other health-care entities that receive federal funds to allow workers to opt out of providing care that violates their moral and religious convictions.

Critics say the proposal by the Department of Health and Human Services could affect access to abortions and birth control, the Washington Post reports. Some also fear the proposal’s broad definition of abortion could hinder scientific research. The proposal defines abortion as anything that affects a fertilized egg.

Jill Morrison of the National Women’s Law Center is among the critics. “You could imagine a group of people with less than honorable intentions seeking to get hired at a family planning clinic with the specific objective of obstructing access. Under this regulation, there is little you could do about it,” Morrison told the Post.

Other critics said the regulation could trump state laws that require insurers to provide coverage for birth control and pharmacists to provide prescribed contraceptives. The National Institutes of Health has also expressed reservations about the proposal’s impact on research.

But HHS said the regulation is needed to accommodate those with moral qualms about certain procedures.

Its proposed regulation states: “In general, the department is concerned that the development of an environment in the health care industry that is intolerant of certain religious beliefs, ethnic and cultural traditions, and moral convictions may discourage individuals from underrepresented and diverse backgrounds from entering health care professions.”

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