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States File Suit Against Last Minute Bush Rule Limiting Women's Access to Reproductive Services

7 states are suing the federal government to stop a last minute rule by former President Bush that pre-empts state laws guaranteeing women's access to reproductive services, including abortion and emergency contraception. The so-called "provider conscience regulation" became effective on Tuesday shortly after President Obama's swearing-in and allows health care workers who object to abortion and contraception to deny women care.  This pre-empts state laws designed to ensure access to necessary reproductive care and threatens womens' health, as detailed by the National Women's Law Center

In Connecticut, the lead state in the suit, the Bush rule would pre-empt three state laws: (1) requiring all hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape survivors; (2) requiring pharmacists to dispense drugs without discrimination based on the type of drug; and (3) requiring insurers to provide coverage for medication without discrimination about the type of drug.  Several organizations have filed parallel lawsuits to stop the rule, including the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (press release and text of suit), ACLU, and the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association.

States Rights' or Political Cover?  This last salvo from the outgoing Bush Administration exposes the hypocrisy of conservative rhetoric supporting "states' rights."  In her notorious Katie Couric interviews, then Vice Presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin said Roe v. Wade should be overturned and that states should set their own abortion policy.  Short of an outright constitutional ban on abortions across the US, this let-the-states-decide position is typical of conservatives' rhetoric opposing a woman's right to choose.  However, this invoking of "states' rights" is little more than opportunistic political dogma, as evidenced by the Bush rule which subverts the notion of "states' rights" by voiding state laws ensuring women's access to necessary medical care.

Fortunately, President Obama has voiced his opposition to the Bush rule and is expected to reverse it. How swiftly the new Administration can rollback the rule is uncertain because it has already taken legal effect and federal rule-making procedures may require a length rule-making process.  While this is sorted out, President Obama may seek to postpone the effective date of the regulation in light of the pending lawsuits. 

Resources

Progressive States Network - States Promoting Contraception to Reduce Unwanted Pregnancies and Abortion Rates
National Women's Law Center - Final HHS Rule Threatens Women's Access to Health Care Information and Options, Poses Serious Risks to Women's Health
Planned Parenthood Federation of America - Planned Parenthood Sues over Disastrous Midnight Regulation and PPFA v. Dept. of Health and Human Services
PPFA - Insurance Coverage for Birth Control and Access to Emergency Contraception and Title X Family Planning Funding