Thursday, December 4, 2008

More on Bush's "conscience" rule

by Laura Pedersen

So, the Right of Conscience rule. Here are a few things you need to know:

The Right of Conscience rule would allow health care workers to refuse to participate in medical procedure they personally deem morally objectionable. It is a very broad interpretation of the phrase "assist in performance," which appears in a current law that allows health care professionals to refuse to participate in abortions.

This broader term could limits women’s full access to a wider range of sexual reproduction rights: birth control, artificial insemination, as well as abortion. It also has the potential to allow health care workers to refuse to distribute information about these procedures.

Women living in poverty would feel a greater impact, given that they already have a fewer number of procedural options available to them.

The new rule targets a specific profession, precludes court protection on the basis of individual opinion and disadvantages those already in a position to be disadvantaged by virtue of their socioeconomic status (and raises the potentially amusing, potentially unsettling question as to why an individual morally opposed to a certain procedure would be working in a department where that procedure is performed.)

Associate Professor of Politics and African-American Studies Melissa Harris-Lacewell at (huzzah!) Princeton University and women’s reproductive rights advocate (huzzah, huzzah!) noted that this proposed rule follows a legislative tactic pro-life groups have been employing to limit rather than outright defeat a woman’s right to choose. The Bush administration’s bottom-trawling approach to scooping up abortion would have an enormous bycatch. Nurses morally opposed to anesthesia? Yes, such things exist.

What do I think about the conscience rule? I think that whether or not you believe in abortion should not be a question when considering this proposed rule. This new interpretation has too many larger implications for this to remain the focus. This is a question of irresponsible legislation.

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