The National Council of Jewish Women has joined the Anti-Defamation League in decrying yesterday’s adoption of a new regulation allowing health-care workers to refuse to provide services, including abortion, on moral or religious grounds. Here’s the statement from NCJW president Nancy Ratzan:
The decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to issue this regulation is a terrible blow to the welfare of all those in need of medical care.
"HHS claims the new regulation will implement the so-called ‘conscience clauses’ of laws long on the books. NCJW supports the need to protect freedom of religion and belief. However, this regulation is not about protecting religious freedom. Rather, it uses the pretense of religious freedom to target women’s access to reproductive health care, creating unreasonable and dangerous barriers.
"In fact, the rule goes far beyond reproductive health concerns to allow any health-care worker to refuse to be involved in any medical procedure, referral, or even the provision of information to patients. The regulations also apply to medical research, education, and training programs.
"The implications of this rule are far-reaching for the provision of health care to anyone — particularly women. HHS has refused to define terms in the regulation and thereby invites providers to deny access to basic health care, including common forms of birth control.
"NCJW urges President-elect Obama and his administration to act quickly upon taking office on January 20 to undo the damage inflicted by this 11th hour attempt to impose the most restrictive regime possible on the medical community and those it serves. The rule must be reversed as soon as possible."