Current Law Is Common Ground

On Friday, the Obama administration took an important step toward reversing the Bush Administration’s provider “conscience” rule, which would have allowed nearly any employee in a federally-funded health care setting to refuse to provide information, referrals or access to a range of health care services, simply by claiming a religious objection. If it stood, this rule would have put real obstacles in the path of low-income women seeking family planning services to avoid unintended pregnancy.

The Bush Administration offered no evidence to support its contention that the rule was needed because a climate of intolerance was preventing qualified individuals from entering the health profession. Now, they claim the rescission amounts to a betrayal of Obama’s promise to seek common ground in the abortion debate.

Don’t be fooled by this theater. Current laws already allow providers with religious objections to abortion to refuse services, and require employers to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs.

The real target of this rule was birth control. It fails to define the term abortion, inviting individuals to define it in ways that encompass contraception. The result would be barriers to women’s access to contraceptive services.

For most Americans, family planning is common ground. The Obama Administration’s quick action should be seen for what it is, a welcome act to remove politics from health care policy.