In light of reports that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is preparing to enact a rule that would undermine critical health care services for women and families, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA) today introduced legislation that would prevent the HHS rule from going into effect. The proposed HHS rule would require any health care entity that receives federal financing to certify in writing that none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable. The proposed bill would keep HHS from moving forward with this rule.
"In the final days of his administration, the President is again putting ideology first and attempting to roll back health care protections for women and families. The fact that the EEOC was never consulted in the drafting of this rule further illustrates that this is purely a political ploy. This HHS rule will threaten patients' rights, stand in the way of health care professionals, and restrict access to critical health care services for those who need them most. Senator Murray and I are standing up once again to the administration against this rule and will continue to fight for women's reproductive rights. President Bush is making a last-minute attempt to undermine women's health care, but our legislation will stop this rule and ensure that women can continue to get needed health care," said Senator Clinton.
"It's now clear that the Bush Administration is so desperate to move their political agenda forward that they are even willing to ignore the advice of their own appointed lawyers. But patient protection and access to care should never take a back seat to politics," Senator Murray said. "Senator Clinton and I are introducing this legislation to ensure that the health of patients always come first. For eight years this administration has worked to undermine women's health but they won't get away with it on their way out the door."
"This midnight regulation is another outrageous attempt by the Bush administration to deny women access to vital health care information and services," said Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards. "Planned Parenthood applauds members of Congress for taking on the task of undoing the abysmal policy mandates and we stand ready to work with them to ensure women have access to the full range of reproductive health care options."
Senators Clinton and Murray have led the effort to block HHS from implementing this new rule. Following a meeting with HHS Secretary Michael O. Leavitt on September 23, Senators Clinton and Murray led a group of 28 Senators urging Secretary Leavitt to halt the proposed HHS rule. Senators Clinton and Murray on called for the meeting with Secretary Leavitt on August 8 after Secretary Leavitt failed to reply to several letters from the Senators and instead defended the proposed HHS policies on his personal blog.
The senators have worked in the past to stop efforts by the Bush Administration to put in place ideological barriers to women's health. They successfully led the fight to secure an administration decision on the over-the-counter sale of Plan B emergency contraception after more than three years of Administration delay.