Plan will make mess of discrimination law


POSTED: Friday, November 21, 2008





        The Bush administration is proposing a rule to allow anti-contraception health industry workers to deny services to women.



WITH little time left in power, the Bush administration is rushing to establish a rule that will allow pharmacists, doctors, nurses and health care workers to refuse women reproductive services such as abortion and contraceptives because of their religious beliefs.

Under the guise of worker protection, the rule would prohibit hospitals, drugstores, clinics and even researchers that receive federal money like Medicaid payments from discriminating against employees who withhold assistance or information based on beliefs or “;moral convictions.”;

The rule would unnecessarily override 40 years of civil rights laws banning religious discrimination and would lead to confusion for employers. The rule could spark lawsuits should businesses be forced to hire workers who refuse to do their jobs. For example, a drugstore company could be sued if it turned down jobs to pharmacists whose religious beliefs won't let them to dispense contraceptives, including birth control pills, or clerks who won't sell condoms.

Objections have flooded in from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, nearly 140 members of Congress, attorneys general of 13 states and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

In pushing one of scores of “;midnight regulations”; it has proposed in the last few months, the administration ignores its own directive to federal agencies to submit rule changes by June 1 and that only under “;extraordinary circumstances”; would late submissions be considered. Yet, without explanation, it is hurrying to get this rule, presented in late August, on the books.