A parting gift, a parting shot

A PARTING GIFT, A PARTING SHOT…. Hilzoy had a terrific item last week on this last week, and I’m glad to see the NYT editorializing on the subject.

A parting gift to the far right, the [Bush administration] new regulation aims to hinder women’s access to abortion, contraceptives and the information necessary to make decisions about their own health. What makes it worse is that the policy is wrapped up in a phony claim to safeguard religious freedom.

The law has long allowed doctors and nurses to refuse to participate in an abortion. Mr. Leavitt’s changes elevate the so-called right to refuse beyond reason to an increased number of medical institutions and a broad range of health care workers and services — including abortion referrals, unbiased counseling and provision of emergency contraception, even to rape victims.

The impact will be hardest on poor women who rely on public programs for their health care.

In July, Barack Obama, still a senator at the time, signed a letter to Mr. Leavitt, along with some of his colleagues, urging Mr. Leavitt to scrap an earlier draft of the regulation. It cited a number of problems that were perpetuated in the final version.

The Health and Human Services regulation is due to become effective on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. By acting right away to suspend its implementation, President-elect Barack Obama and his choice to succeed Mr. Leavitt, Tom Daschle, can block irresponsible changes that threaten people’s rights and defy the federal government’s duty on public health.

Fortunately, Obama plans to do just that. No one seriously believes it’ll still be on the books this time next month, which is probably the only reason this new regulation hasn’t drawn more outrage.

Regardless, this doesn’t change the odious nature of Bush’s effort.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.