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By Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service

Washington – Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt says draft proposals to protect the conscience-driven objections of health care providers do not and will not seek to curb access to contraceptives.
“An early draft of the regulations found its way into public circulation before it had reached my review,” Leavitt wrote in an HHS blog on Aug. 7. “It contained words that lead some to conclude my intent is to deal with the subject of contraceptives, somehow defining them as abortion. Not true.”
He said his department is still mulling whether to issue a new regulation, but any new rules would address protecting the conscience of health practitioners.
“… (T)he issue I asked to be addressed in this regulation is not abortion or contraceptives, but the legal right medical practitioners have to practice according to their conscience and patients should be able to choose a doctor who has beliefs like his or hers.”
The Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights has issued an “action alert” to its members, urging them to contact Leavitt and President Bush to oppose the proposal.
“The Administration disingenuously justifies this attack on critical health care services by claiming it is showing respect for individual conscience and religious freedom,” the Washington-based coalition says on its Web site. “In so doing, they impose through government mandate a single religious ideology … ”
The coalition’s Web site includes a link to a draft of the proposed regulations, which says “the conscience of the individual or institution should be paramount in determining what constitutes abortion, within the bounds of reason.” It proposes that abortion should be defined as “any of the various procedures — including the prescription and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action — that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation.”
Concerned Women for America, a conservative Christian group, has asked its members to send comments to the blog — which has received more than 1,100 online responses — to show support for the proposed language.
“Abortion advocates are causing a ruckus about a rule that simply requires health agencies to follow the law and not to discriminate against people with moral beliefs against taking an innocent life,” said Wendy Wright, president of the Washington-based group.
“As patients, we depend — with our lives — on health providers to be moral. But if ethical professionals with strong consciences are forced out of the profession, patients will suffer the most.”
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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