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ON THE BLOGS | Blogs Comment on New HHS Regulation, Election Issues

ON THE BLOGS | Blogs Comment on New HHS Regulation, Election Issues
[Aug. 26, 2008]

The following is a summary of selected women's health-related blog entries.

HHS Regulation

~"American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology Calls Out Secretary Leavitt for Misrepresenting Certification Issues in Support of Proposed Regulation," Our Bodies Ourselves: HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt's most recent posting on his professional blog about the proposed regulation reflects that he "continues to either misunderstand or deliberately misrepresent the certification issue as a primary argument for the introduction of the proposed regulations," the blog post says. According to the entry, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the certifying organization for ob/gyns, has "clearly stated since at least March of this year that refusal to perform or refer for abortion would have no bearing on issuance or renewal of provider certification." The blog references a letter sent on Aug. 22 by ABOG to Leavitt in response to the proposed regulation. The letter challenges Leavitt to provide any evidence that this is a real justification for the regulation, which he has "thus far failed to provide" ("Our Bodies Ourselves," 8/25).

~"HHS Proposal Says Doctors Can Refuse Abortions, Referrals," Feministing: Leavitt's insistence that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists "issued guidelines that could shape board certification requirements and necessitate a doctor to perform abortions to be considered competent" is a falsehood that "HHS is using [to] create the illusion that providers' rights are under vicious attack, when in reality the regulations are the offense, blatantly threatening our reproductive freedoms -- particularly for uninsured and low-income women," the blog post says. In addition, the entry says that although the regulation does not define contraception as abortion, the American Civil Liberties Union thinks there could be "some wiggle room" ("Feministing," 8/22).

~"The Department of Health and Hallowed Services," Cristina Page, Birth Control Watch: While Leavitt is "attempting to pass off his new regulation as protecting health care providers who, for reasons of conscience, don't want to take part in abortion services," for those "schooled in the fine print, the regulation might be described as a love letter to extremists," Page writes in a blog entry. According to Page, there already have been three laws passed in the last 30 years that protect individuals who do not want to participate in abortion services. Page adds, "Leavitt does not claim that these laws are inadequate; he does not point to any violations of them. He seems to want us to believe that he is merely underscoring longstanding laws." Page concludes that "[i]f Leavitt's intent is as broad as his broadly worded regulation to suggest, your right to health care -- all health care -- will be determined by the sensitivities of nearly every person in a white smock, and even perhaps others. Your doctor may not have a problem giving you that prescription, but will the pharmacist fill it? And, if so, will the pro-life cashier ring it up? Women have had to run an obstacle course to get reproductive health care in recent years. If we leave it to Leavitt, the number of obstacles will grow" (Page, "Birth Control Watch," 8/22).

~"Proposed HHS Regulation Could Still Block Access to Contraception, Other Health Services," Jessica Arons, RH Reality Check: Arons writes that although most of the regulation "limits the scope of allowable moral objections to training, performing, counseling or referring for abortion and sterilization," its allowance for objections based on any personal moral convictions or religious beliefs "is much broader than traditional conscience clauses." Arons adds that the regulation would extend protection from physicians and nurses "to just about anyone who might come into contact with a patient, and even some who might not," concluding, "[b]y that logic, an ambulance driver, a receptionist and even the person who processes health insurance forms might be able to refuse to perform their jobs if related to a health care service they find morally objectionable. Volunteers are explicitly protected, too" (Arons, "RH Reality Check," 8/22).

Election Issues
~"McCain Surrogate Falsely Suggests McCain Does Not Want to Overturn Roe," Think Progress: According to the blog entry, in a new advertisement for Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), Debra Bartoshevich, a self-described "proud Hillary Clinton Democrat," announces that she opposes Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and will vote for McCain. The blog reports that at a press conference, Bartoshevich made this statement: "Going back to 1999, John McCain did an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle saying that overturning Roe v. Wade would not make any sense, because then women would have to have illegal abortions." The post adds that McCain supporter Carly Fiorina -- who also attended the press conference with Bartoshevich -- has misrepresented McCain's position on choice in the past. "Newsweek magazine reported" that Fiorina "told women in Columbus, Ohio, that McCain 'has never signed on to efforts to overturn Roe vs. Wade,'" the blog says ("Think Progress," 8/25).

~"Biden -- a Moderate?" ProLifeBlogs: The blog entry examines vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Biden's (D-Del.) voting record on such issues as Roe and abortion rights. According to the blog entry, "[g]iven his radical support for abortion, the news that" Obama chose Biden as his running mate is "not much of a surprise. What is a surprise is that some actually consider Biden to be moderate on issues related to the dignity of human" life ("ProLifeBlogs," 8/23).