The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: (202) 466-3234,Joe Conn,Rob Boston,Sandhya Bathija

Department of Health and Human Services Should Revoke Bush-Era 'Conscience' Rules, Says Americans United

Church-State Watchdog Group Says Bush Medical Regulations Are Unnecessary and Could Violate Patients' Rights


Americans United for Separation of Church and State has called on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to rescind a regulation put in place by former President George W. Bush dealing with religious objections to medical procedures, saying the rule could violate patients' rights.

The sweeping regulation, implemented by Bush in December, essentially gives health-care workers a right to refuse to take part in any procedure that they say violates their religious beliefs.

"This regulation was a parting gift from President Bush to the Religious Right, and it ought to be returned to sender," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "The last thing this country needs is more Religious Right meddling in our health care."

President Barack Obama has proposed rescinding the Bush regulation, and today is the deadline for public comment on the matter.

In a letter to HHS Acting Secretary Charles E. Johnson, Americans United urges Obama to proceed with the planned rescission of the rule, arguing that the regulation is unnecessary because the nation's federal civil rights laws already protect employees from religious discrimination.

"Rescinding the law would pose no threat to the rights of health-care workers, and instead, would serve to ensure that more individuals have access to health care," wrote Margaret F. Garrett, AU assistant legislative director. "The goals of the current rule could more effectively be met simply through education and outreach."

AU also asserts that the rule is too sweeping in its approach and that it fosters ambiguity.

Continuing to enforce the regulation, AU asserts, "will have a chilling effect on health-care facilities, reducing rather than expanding health-care services for patients."

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.