The blogosphere is buzzing over a planned government regulation I reported on yesterday, which would allow doctors who oppose abortion to opt out of prescribing contraceptives that cause the expulsion of fertilized eggs, thus potentially reducing your access to birth control pills. Bloggers on both sides of the issue have let fly some zingers. Speaking out against the rule, Cristina Page, a blogger for the reproductive health blog Reality Check, calls it a "spectacular act of complicity with the religious right." And the Feministe blog says: "The proposed change would explicitly allow medical providers to morally coerce patients and to discriminate against girls and women who want or need a service or a prescription which they are allowed to have by law."
Voicing support for the rule, Denise Burke, a blogger for Americans United for Life, writes: "Although the announcement of this draft policy was met with predictable consternation from abortion advocacy groups, this policy simply provides an oversight mechanism to enforce more than a dozen existing (and many long-standing) federal protections for healthcare freedom of conscience." And a blogger for a Catholic blogspot, Causa Nostrae Laetitiae, warns that if the women's-rights activists succeed at sinking the new rule, "Catholic and other health care professionals who follow their conscience...will be driven out of their jobs."
Even Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, who adamantly opposes the HHS rule, is blogging in outrage. She writes, "The Bush Administration is up to its old tricks again, quietly putting ideology before science and women's health.... We can't let them get away with this underhanded move to undermine women's health and that's why I am sounding the alarm." She reports that these proposed regulations are "set to be released next week," but my source at the Department of Health and Human Services tells me that no wheels have been set in motion to make that happen.
It's a mystery how a draft of this rule got out in the first place. Many suspect it was leaked to the New York Times by an HHS staffer who wanted to put the kibosh on it before it was actually issued. The negative reaction to the planned rule was predictable, as was the collective outcry from Democratic members of Congress. (Yesterday, 105 representatives and 28 senators sent letters of protest to President Bush and HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt.) If the rule is indeed formally proposed, there will be a period for public comment before HHS decides whether to make it official. In the meantime, you can voice your opinion by sending an E-mail to Leavitt at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're against the regulation, you can also send a form E-mail via the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. Tell us what you think in our online poll below.