Abortion rule is redundant

There they go again. This country is faced with an economic crisis of immense proportions and a war that seems to have no finish line. Yet the Bush administration has found time to concoct a set of divisive abortion-related rules that it apparently intends to implement at the 11th hour of its disastrous tenure in office.

The proposed rule change, announced by the Department of Health and Human Services, expands on existing rules to allow health-care workers to refuse to perform or assist in abortions or to refuse to provide patients with information related to abortion options. The rule also requires doctors and hospitals that receive federal funding to certify that their employees can opt out of such procedures.

It's a sticky wicket, but generally we support the idea that health care workers should be able to opt out of participating in abortion procedures when they are opposed on moral grounds. It's sticky because health-care providers are ethically required to provide care to all people and not allowed to pick and choose who will receive care. Abortion, after all, is legal in this country.

But in practical terms, we do not think it's reasonable to expect that someone who finds abortion morally objectionable be required to participate in the actual procedure.

However, we find the new rule objectionable on other grounds. First, there already are laws on the books that protect health-care workers who do not want to participate in abortions. The Bush administration, which continues to push the federal government into the most private corners of individuals' and families' lives, succeeds only in stirring up more divisions in the country by enacting a largely redundant abortion rule.

Beyond that, it is reasonable to expect health-care workers whose employers receive federal funding to be required to provide basic information to women who wish to consider the options. It is hard to understand the logic of the federal government threatening to withhold funds from doctors, clinics and hospitals that ask their workers to provide full information to patients about a legal medical procedure.

Counseling and access to information about birth issues and reproductive rights is widely available to women whose families are financially secure or who have health insurance. But low-income women often do not have the luxury of being fully informed. So the very people who face the most difficulty in caring for a larger family are also the people most likely to go without the information that can help educate them about their options.

There is no question that this is another step by the Bush administration's social conservatives to make a legal medical procedure more difficult to obtain. This is an administration that routinely tries to impose its moral view of the world on everyone, regardless of what the law says.

A 30-day comment period on the proposed rule is set to end Thursday.

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