Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bush Midnight Regulation To Restrict Family Planning Choice

Almost immediately after Obama took the oath of office on January 20, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel sent a memorandum to all government agencies and departments, directing them to freeze all pending regulations until a legal and policy review can be conducted by the new administration. During his first week office, President Obama also signed his own Executive Orders to reverse a number of President Bush's Executive Orders, including the so-called "Mexico City policy" or global gag rule.
President Barack Obama on Friday quietly ended the Bush administration's ban on giving federal money to international groups that provide information on the use of birth control contraception products and methods. Democrats welcomed the decision, while abortion rights foes criticized the president.

Known as the "Mexico City policy," the ban has been reinstated and then reversed by Republican and Democratic presidents since Ronald Reagan established it in 1984. Democrat Bill Clinton ended the ban in 1993, but Republican George W. Bush re-instituted it in 2001 as one of his first acts in office.

Obama's statement explaining his decision to lift Mexico City gag rule.
But a memo from Rahm Emanuel to government agencies and Obama's signature on new executive orders can not reverse Bush's many controversial midnight regulations already finalized before Jan. 20. Among the most onerous of the many midnight regulations implemented across every government agency is the new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ‘Conscientious Objection Regulation’

In December, the HHS formally adopted a conscientious objection 'regulation’ permitting federally funded health care providers to decline to participate in services, such as filling prescriptions for birth control pills, to which they object. The new regulation fails to provide a clear definition of what pharmaceuticals or health care procedures are covered by the new HHS conscientious objection regulation so anyone can object to anything.

In reality the new regulation permits practitioners to deny medical access to almost any pharmaceutical or procedure ranging from commonly used methods of birth control to using a mechanical resuscitator or feeding tube to sustain life. The regulation allows individual health care providers and pharmacists to deny patients vital health care information and services based on their own personal biases, without the patient even knowing. Everyone's ability to manage their own health care is at risk of being compromised by politics and ideology.

From the time the draft regulation was leaked last summer through the official open comment review period, medical professionals rejected the new rule and expressed concern about its consequences. “Implementation of this regulation would effectively allow health care providers’ personal beliefs to override patients’ right to full disclosure of accurate information and available health care resources,” six medical associations warned in a joint statement. In a separate letter to the HHS, 13 state attorneys generals argued that “the rule was too vague about what health care procedures may be withheld.”

The new regulation has been widely denounced by members of Congress, President Obama, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and particularly by women’s health groups.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America has joined with Planned Parenthood of Connecticut to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, asking the court to invalidate the administrative regulation finalized in December by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Learn more about Planned Parenthood’s opposition to the rule.
  • Read Planned Parenthood’s press release on the lawsuit.
  • Read a copy of the Planned Parenthood lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
  • Sign the Planned Parenthood petition
Through the Congressional Review Act of 1996 the new 111th Congress has a period of time to review and "disprove" Bush Administration midnight regulations. Any regulation change made less than 60 legislative days before Congress adjourns for the year, which in this case means any regulation change the Bush Administration made after mid-May 2008, would be subject to the Congressional Review Act. Unfortunately, the the 111th Congress has only a short period of time to disprove Bush's midnight regulations and the clock is ticking.

If a motion to disprove is passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President, the rule cannot be enforced or defended in court. A motion to disprove has to see an up-or-down vote; it can't be attached to appropriations bills or other must-pass legislation and it cannot be filibustered. If this avenue fails, Congress could refuse to appropriate funds for implementation of the rule, or Congress could pass the legislation introduced by Senators Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray that would prohibit HHS from enforcing the new regulation. Finally, the new administration could begin a new round of rule-making, perhaps the most time-consuming option.

Congressional Democrats have publicly discussed the option of bundling all of Bush's midnight regulations into a single "disapproval resolution" so that they could be overturned en masse. That would be a fitting end to Bush's midnight regulatory spree, which includes a pretty distressing list of rule changes.

If you have never called or written your representatives in the U.S. House and Senate, now is the time to start. Write, call or email both U.S. Senators for Texas, John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, and your Representative in U.S. House and tell them to pass a motion to disapprove President Bush's HHS midnight ‘conscientious objection regulation.’

You can find the contact information for your representatives in the U.S. House and Senate at the following links:
U.S. Senate U.S. House
There are two congressional districts in Collin County: Map

The Texas Democratic Women of Collin County will hold their first meeting of 2009 on Mon. Jan. 26 at 6:45 pm at the Collin County Community College Preston Ridge Frisco campus - Founders Hall, Rm F148. (9700 Wade Blvd, Frisco, TX - map) This meeting will host a program by Planned Parenthood. Everyone is welcome to attend.

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