Bureaucrats Try New Tricks to Stymie Reproductive Rights

Here's a new twist in the battle for control of women's bodies.

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Who gets to make and affect decisions about reproductive rights? Well, there are patients; doctors will likely have a say at some point; judges and politicians can be expected to weigh in periodically.

Oh, and don't forget bureaucrats and maybe even receptionists.

As my colleague Deborah Kotz writes today, the Department of Health and Human Services is pondering a new regulation that would protect healthcare workers from being fired if they refuse to do a portion of their job that "would be contrary to his religious beliefs or moral convictions."

Kotz spoke to Judy Waxman of the National Women's Law Center, who described the possible ramifications of the rule thusly:

The rule is so broad that it includes not only physicians but nurses, lab technicians, receptionists, and anyone else who works there. For instance, a receptionist could theoretically refuse to schedule an appointment for a woman wishing to have an IUD inserted because the device may cause the expulsion of a fertilized egg, which the receptionist considers to be abortion. A maintenance worker may refuse to clean rooms used for abortions.

She uses the word "theoretically," but the broader point here is pretty clear. As Waxman adds, " . . . a large pharmacy chain with several pharmacists on duty can afford to have one pharmacist who won't dispense birth control if others behind the counter will. A small family-owned shop may not be able to do that."

Happily despite what you might think, the bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services are in fact not unaccountable. You can make a comment at the department's website or E-mail one directly to consciencecomment@hhs.gov.