The Bush administration, in its last days, issued new regulations that critics say put religious views ahead of healthcare needs.
The controversial regulations, which will cost more than $44 million to implement, were sought by conservative groups and abortion opponents to block workers from being fired, disciplined or penalized if they object to performing certain medical tasks.
The regulations would cut off federal funding for any state or local government, hospital, health plan, clinic or other entity that does not respect workers’ religious objections to provide care.
This far-reaching measure translates into protections for pharmacists who do not want to fill doctor-prescribed birth control because it goes against their religious views, or for lab workers who refuses to assist a gay woman exploring in-vitro fertilization. Under these regulations, Catholic hospitals receiving federal money can refuse to provide certain types of critical care, such as morning-after pills, to rape victims.
“This regulation puts patient health and health service programs at risk,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Current law already accommodates and respects religious objections, so long as the objection does not harm patients. It is clear that this regulation is just another strategy to push a very narrow religious viewpoint on the entire country.”
President Barack Obama criticized this regulation when it was proposed last summer and has vowed to review all of Bush’s eleventh-hour regulations.