Jewish groups blast new conscience clause rule


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish groups are criticizing a rule issued Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services which allows health-care workers to refuse to participate in providing services that they feel violate their personal, moral or religious beliefs.

The Anti-Defamation League says "vital reproductive health care" could be denied to women under the new rule.

"Under this rule, patients may be denied not only vital medical services, but also critical information, referrals, prescriptions and counseling related to their reproductive health," said ADL civil rights director Deborah M. Lauter. "While we encourage religious accommodation in the workplace, that accomodation must not result in discrimination. The new rules chips away at a woman’s constitutionally protected, fundamental right to choose. We hope President-elect Obama will take immediate steps to reverse this eleventh-hour discriminatory rule when he takes office."

The National Council for Jewish Women also expressed hope that the Obama would work to change the rule, calling it "a terrible blow to the welfare of all those in need of medical care."

"The implications of this rule are far-reaching for the provision of health care to anyone — particularly women," said NCJW president Nancy Ratzan. "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."

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