Women's groups, state governments, and a host of others have reacted harshly to the new conscience rights regulation put forth by the Department of Health and Human Services last week. I received a slew of press releases in my in box from such organizations as the National Family and Reproductive Health Association, which stated that the "new regulations will limit access to contraception to low-income and uninsured women and men and will create new hurdles for family-planning service providers," and from the National Partnership for Women and Families, which said, "These regulations leave the term 'abortion' undefined, so individuals and institutions are free to classify birth control as abortion." The ACLU also expressed its "grave concern."
Newspaper editorial writers have gotten in on the act, too. The Albany Times Union called for Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York to fight the rule before she leaves office to become secretary of state. Of course, bloggers have been sounding off about this regulation since it was first proposed last summer, as I previously reported.
Most fascinating to me, though, is the decision by Connecticut's attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, to challenge the regulation by filing a lawsuit or petition in federal court arguing that the rule tramples on states' and patients' rights. He's worried that the rule will reverse a one-year-old law requiring all hospitals in the state to offer emergency contraception to rape victims. "The consequence of this regulation," he tells me, "would be to blow apart the carefully crafted, painstaking compromise that we reached in our state statute."
He says he's considering challenging the new rule in federal court, but that can't happen until it goes into effect on January 18. A dozen other states with similar laws for rape victims—including Maryland, Illinois, and Arizona—could join him in the legal battle.