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As one of his final gestures in office, George W. Bush implemented a midnight regulation which, if enacted, will allow US officials to deny federal funding to any state or local government, hospital, health plan, clinic or other organization that does not honor federal laws compelling them to accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other employees who refuse to provide patient care that they object to for ethical, moral or religious reasons. Under the regulation, these health care workers will not be allowed to be fired, penalized, or disciplined in any way for denying care they find objectionable.

In response, seven states, along with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the ACLU on behalf of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, have filed three lawsuits in the US District Court in Connecticut seeking a court order to block this regulation from going into effect. The suits claim that the regulation is not only too vague, but conflicts with existing state and federal laws.

"On the way out, the Bush administration has left a ticking political time bomb that is set to explode literally on the day of the president’s inaugural and blow apart women’s rights," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who filed one of the suits on behalf of his state, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island. "This midnight rule is a nightmare for hospitals and clinics, as well as women."

"The regulation is important, because we increasingly are seeing discrimination against health-care personnel who hold religious beliefs having to do with abortion and contraception," said David Stevens, chief executive of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations. "Unless these conscience rights are protected, people are going to be driven out of health care." -Rob Stein, The Washington Post.

With all the other obstacles we’re facing to effective and affordable health care in this country, I’m not comfortable with the federal government sanctioning health care professionals to be defiantly selective about the conditions under which they choose to offer care.

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