In a victory for reproductive rights, the Obama Administration has modified a Bush Administration policy designed to allow insurance companies, hospitals and other health care providers to refuse to offer basic reproductive health services, including birth control and life-saving abortions.
The "Health Care Denial Rule" - which in effect overruled a hard-won state law insisting that all providers offer those services - had been challenged in federal court by the ACLU of Connecticut and the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association.
"We are pleased that the Obama administration made good on a promise to restore the balance between individual religious liberty and access to reproductive health care," said David McGuire, ACLU-CT staff attorney. "The modification eliminates the most troublesome portions of the Bush rule that endangered women's access to emergency care and reproductive health services."
A motion on behalf of the Fair Haven Community Health to dismiss the lawsuit as no longer needed was granted by U.S. District Judge Bryant.
The Bush rule, enacted in the final days of that administration, significantly undermined the ability of millions of women and men in the United States to access essential family planning, reproductive and other health care services and information. It expressly permitted a broad range of health care workers and facilities to refuse to provide services, information, and counseling, potentially even in emergency situations. At the same time, it failed to require providers who refused to treat patients to either notify their employers or their patients of their objections to providing care.
Last month the Department of Health and Human Services modified the "right to conscience" rule, making the ACLU challenge unnecessary. At the state level, the ACLU had joined other organizations in pushing successfully for a new law requiring all health care providers to assure access to emergency care and reproductive health services.
Plaintiffs included NFPRHA and the Fair Haven Community Health Clinic, Inc. Lawyers on the case included Jennifer Dalven, Diana Kasdan, Alexa Kolbi-Molinas and Sukti Dhital of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; and David J. McGuire, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Connecticut.
Revised HHS Rule
Read the ACLU's 2009 complaint