The Last Hurrah? Final Stage for HHS Abortion Rule

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The Last Hurrah? Final Stage for HHS Abortion Rule

Amie Newman

The HHS "midnight" rules that would allow health care providers and any employees of institutions that provide health care to "opt out" of participating in care, in any way, with which they do not agree is in its final stage of review, as of yesterday. It's the last hurrah for the Bush administration.

The Bush administration’s final twisting of the knife in the form of twenty or so rules and regulations that they are attempting to pass before they move out for good has been reported on widely over the last several weeks. The rules cover everything from contaminants in your drinking water to labor issues. 

As Rewire has covered widely, one of those regulations is within the Department of Health and Human Services and allows for any health care provider receiving federal funding of any kind – and anyone who works for said provider from the receptionist to the person whose job it is to clean the surgical instruments – to "opt out" of providing medical care with which they do not agree. 

It’s been widely contested by the general public, opposed by most major mainstream medical associations, public health professionals and health care providers. HHS received over 200,000 comments during the public commenting period – most of those in opposition to the rule. 

The irony of the situation, or rather the unethical nature of the entire situation, is that the Bush administration actually ignored the federal government’s own rules as laid out in the Josh Bolten memorandum; rules that defined a deadline for any new  regulations to be proposed by June 1st. These regulations were not released (or more accurately, leaked) until August. 

Roe is gone. The chaos is just beginning.

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And, now, the rules are in the final stage before passage. They have been sent to the Office of Management and Budget’s,  Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review, as of yesterday. The rules are reviewed for economic impact, among other issues, and then sent back to HHS to publish in the final registry. With the publication it will officially be a done deal. 

When the rules were initially proposed, HHS in fact sent it over quietly to the OIRA for review in one day, without any period of public comment. This did not go over well, obviously, and the administration was forced to play by the rules. 

Rewire will continue to monitor this final stage. Stay tuned for an article exploring how these regulations can be overturned, should they pass, under an Obama administration. Unfortunately, it’s not enough for the Bush administration to leave this county in a state of economic disaster and embroiled in two wars. It looks like we’ll have a host of bureacratic rules to contend with undoing as well; rules that may have seriously negative effects on patient’s access to health care and physician’s ability to do their jobs.