Last Friday, Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to change federal rules in a way that could limit women's access to reproductive health options. Basically, the rule change would require any federal grant recipient to allow its employees to deny contraception based on their religious beliefs. It's language is fuzzy and suggests a disturbingly flexible definition of when pregnancy -- and life -- begins. Slippery slope stuff.
It's gotten the reproductive rights community in an understandable uproar, and with less than twelve hours until the comment deadline, the Maine Civil Liberties Union has entered the fray.
"Tomorrow, the Bush Admininstration will hearf rom more than 1,000 Mainers who are concerned that proposed Health and Human Services regulations will harm patient health," MCLU executive director Shenna Bellows said in a press release sent out this morning. "The new federal regulations appear to conflict with Maine law that requires pharmacies to fill all prescriptions including birth control. In the case of pharmacies, individual pharmacists have been able to refuse to fill a prescription as long as someone else in the pharmacy can meet the patient's needs. Similarly, because of legal protections already in place, individual clinic workers have always been able to refuse to perform abortions, but this rule would mean they would not be required to inform women of their full range of treatment options, and provide appropriate referrals."
The press release reminds people that they can email comments about the proposed regulations until midnight tonight to firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the MCLU Web site.