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WASHINGTON (RNS) Seven states have sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, saying a new regulation that permits health care workers to abstain from providing abortions is illegal.
The suit, filed Thursday (Jan. 15) by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, seeks to block the rule that is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 20, the day President-elect Barack Obama is sworn into office.
The rule permits health care workers to abstain from any service or activity that they object to based on moral or religious convictions.
“On its way out, the Bush administration has left a ticking legal time bomb set to explode literally the day of the inaugural and blow apart vital constitutional rights and women’s health care,” Blumenthal said.
“The federal government is impermissibly interfering with constitutional rights and carefully crafted and balanced state measures protecting patients and women, particularly rape victims who may require immediate access to emergency contraception.”
The suit charges that HHS exceeded its authority by creating a regulation that fails to define abortion and “essentially delegating that crucial function” to individuals and health care providers.
The states joining Connecticut in the suit are California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island.
The 127-page regulation, which was introduced on Dec. 18, was praised by religious conservatives who had sought relief from being punished for not performing abortions. Liberal groups have said the rule will place doctors’ views above patients and undermine religious diversity.
An HHS spokesperson could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Adelle M. Banks
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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