The Bush administration has proposed a rule that any program run or funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must certify that they will not refuse to hire nurses and other healthcare workers who object to abortion and abortafacient contraceptives.
Under the proposed rule hospitals, clinics, researchers and medical schools would have to sign “written certifications” as a prerequisite to receiving federal funding from the department, the New York Times reports. In areas like grant provision, state and local governments would also be forbidden to discriminate against hospitals and other institutions that have policies against providing abortions.
A section in the 39-page proposed rule states that the rule is necessary to ensure that federal money does not “support morally coercive or discriminatory practices or policies in violation of federal law.” The proposal also voices concern about state laws that require hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims who request it.
According to the New York Times, the Bush administration said in the proposal that it could cut off federal aid to individuals or organizations that discriminate against people who object to abortion on the grounds of “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”
"Over the past three decades, Congress has passed several anti-discrimination laws to protect institutional and individual health care providers participating in federal programs," the proposal reads. "HHS has an obligation to enforce these laws, and is exploring a number of options."
In the proposal, an abortion is defined as “any of the various procedures — including the prescription, dispensing and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action — that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation.”
Mary Jane Gallagher, president of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, argued in the New York Times that the proposal’s definition of abortion is “so broad that it would cover many types of birth control, including oral contraceptives and emergency contraception.”
Other critics were more vocal.
"If the administration goes through with this draft proposal, it will launch a dangerous assault on women's health," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.
Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, praised the proposed rule.
“We’re pleased the Bush administration has finally acted on truth,” Brown said in a statement. “Birth control very often causes abortion – period. The medical community has known for a long time and the government is just now admitting it. We hope this 11th-hour consideration puts a new consciousness in the American people – the pill kills.”