Bush 'Conscience' Rule Strengthens Workers' Right to Refuse Care

It may create heated abortion debate during Obama's first months in office.

For more than 30 years, federal law has protected the rights of doctors and nurses to refuse to perform abortions. Now, in his last weeks in office, President Bush is expected to announce a "right of conscience" rule that would clarify and possibly extend what healthcare workers may refuse to provide based on moral convictions.

The rule, supported by the Christian Medical Association (CMA) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, would

(1) clarify that healthcare workers not only may refuse to perform abortions, but may also refuse to provide information or advice regarding them;

(2) protect more medical employees, such as operating-room technicians involved in but not central to abortion procedures; and

(3) possibly include artificial insemination and birth control as things workers could refuse to provide or give advice on.

The rule could clarify pharmacists' right to refuse filling prescriptions for emergency contraception that they consider to be abortion-inducing. CMA president ...

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