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    Doctors Who Refuse Abortions Shielded by U.S. Plan

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    Doctors Who Refuse Abortions Shielded by U.S. Plan

    Post by sang_garuda on Thu Aug 28, 2008 8:31 am

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed a rule that would protect health-care workers who refuse to participate in abortions.

    The proposed regulation, published today in the Federal Register, seeks to ensure that doctors and other employees in institutions receiving federal funds can't be fired or lose professional certification if they don't participate in abortions, Secretary Michael Leavitt said today on a conference call with reporters.

    While the rule refers specifically to abortions, it also covers those who refuse to offer other services or procedures for which they have a religious or moral objection. Unlike an earlier draft, the proposal doesn't seek to expand the definition of abortion, Leavitt said. Critics had said the earlier version would describe certain common methods of contraception as types of abortion.

    ``This is about protecting the right of a physician to practice medicine according to his or her moral compass,'' Leavitt said. ``This regulation is not about contraception, it is about abortion and conscience.''

    The rule would strengthen existing regulations that protect doctors and others working in hospitals and clinics from being forced to do things that violate their conscience, Leavitt said. Anyone involved in abortions, from employees expected to wash instruments used in the procedures to operating room nurses, would be covered.

    Planned Parenthood

    Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc., which provides family-planning services including abortions and birth control, said the proposal would make it more difficult for Americans to get accurate and needed medical treatment.

    ``Women's ability to manage their own health care is at risk of being compromised by politics and ideology,'' said Cecile Richards, the federation's president, in an e-mailed statement.

    Democratic lawmakers also criticized the rule, with Senator Hillary Clinton of New York saying in a statement the action was ``one more example of the Bush administration putting ideology ahead of science and women's health.''

    The rule puts ``teeth'' into existing protections, making clear that violations won't be tolerated, said David Stevens, a family practitioner and chief executive of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, in Bristol, Tennessee.

    Doctors told they had to provide birth-control information to unmarried women or risk losing their jobs would be protected under the new rule, Stevens said.

    ``We have 15,000 members and most are happy to talk about abortion, they just won't perform or refer to it, and this protects them,'' Stevens said in a telephone interview.

    Professional Group

    Leavitt said the need for the rule was demonstrated by a proposal from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a Washington-based professional association, to require doctors who oppose abortion to refer patients to physicians willing to do the procedure. If they didn't, they could lose their board certification.

    ``To increase awareness and compliance with this law we drafted the proposed regulation,'' Leavitt said.


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