Thursday, September 11, 2008

Proposed Regulations Issued to Protect Right of Conscience of Health Care Professionals

On August 21, the Department of Health and Human Services issued proposed regulations that would clarify and enforce existing laws that afford protection to members of the health care community who have moral or religious objections to the practice of abortion. The proposed regulations also include accountability measures which would require recipients of federal funding appropriated through the Department of Health and Human Services to certify compliance with laws protecting the right of conscience.

These regulations have not yet taken effect and are open for public comment for a period of thirty days. Following the comment period, the Department of Health and Human Services will consider the comments before issuing the final regulations. The deadline for public comment is September 25, 2008. You can comment on this issue in one of three ways:

1. Official comments may be submitted at www.Regulations.gov. Enter key word ‘provider conscience’ and click on the link ‘Comment or Submission.’ You can submit your entry in the space provided or add an attachment (Attachments should be in Microsoft Word, Word Perfect, or Excel; Microsoft Word is preferred). The subject line must read ‘Provider Conscience Regulation.’

2. Official comments may also be submitted via email at consciencecomment@hhs.gov. The subject line must read ‘Provider Conscience Regulation.’

3. General comments may be submitted to the blog for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services at http://secretarysblog.hhs.gov.

The core issue underlying these regulations is conscience protections and they must be codified in order to enforce existing federal law and ensure that health care professionals have the right to refuse to perform services due to moral, ethical, or religious objections.