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Obama to Rescind Bush Abortion Rule

Obama to Rescind Bush Abortion Rule

Doctor Sergio Munoz, who is also spokesperson for an association of Spanish abortion clinics speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in an abortion clinic, in Madrid, Thursday Feb. 19, 2009. (AP Photo/Paul White)

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar / AP

March 01, 2009

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is moving to rescind a federal rule that reinforced protections for medical providers who refuse to perform abortions or other procedures on moral grounds, an official said Friday.

A Health and Human Services official said the administration will publish notice of its intentions early next week, and open a 30-day comment period for advocates, medical groups and the public. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official notice has not been completed.

The Bush administration instituted the rule in its last days, and it was quickly challenged in federal court by several states and medical organizations. As a candidate, President Barack Obama criticized the regulation and campaign aides promised that if elected, he would review it.

Abortion opponents hailed the Bush regulation, saying it clarified federal policies and raised awareness about the rights of medical providers to follow their consciences. But abortion rights advocates said it could reduce access to other services — allowing a drug store clerk to refuse to sell birth control pills, for example.

Federal law has long forbidden discrimination against health care professionals who refuse to perform abortions or provide referrals for them. The Bush administration’s rule requires institutions that get federal funding to certify their compliance with laws protecting conscience rights. It was intended to block the flow of federal funds to hospitals and other institutions that ignore the rights of religious and moral objectors.

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