Happy Constitution Day

Today marks the anniversary of the signing of our Constitution. I’d like to be able to wax glowingly on how well our elected officials have defended my constitutional rights. Sadly friends, in the last eight years, we’ve suffered from privacy invasions and censorship, while our government has launched illegal wars at the cost of lives and trillions of dollars. I certainly don’t remember asking my elected officials to grossly violate prisoners’ basic human rights in the interest of my security. My country has gotten away from me. Instead of whining and being an apathetic pessimist, I am going to do something about it.

In honor of this proud day in our nation’s history, I’m going to start by writing to my lawmakers on a topic I feel very strongly about- one that will no doubt be receiving even more attention very soon.

On August 21, 2008, The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced a proposed rule to “help protect health care providers from discrimination,” thus commencing a thirty-day public comment period. In short, federally-funded grant projects will carry the stipulation that a health care provider (physicians, care centers and health plans are mentioned but this could theoretically extend to pharmacists) cannot be punished for refusing to assist in abortion or sterilization due to personally held values or beliefs.

What’s the big deal? It’s more about setting precedent. There is much speculation about how far this ruling will be taken. Sterilization is a form of birth control (the most extreme form, granted). Could this ruling extend to other forms of birth control? There are those who believe that both abortion and the use of contraceptives are akin to murder. This proposed ruling could allow those who share this belief to withhold information regarding contraception from patients (or allow pharmacists to refuse filling prescriptions for the pill). Huh. That’s like saying, if you believe meat is murder then your employer can’t fire you for your refusal to prepare or serve meat even if that is your job. Would this fly? Uh, no, objecting vegetarians would be fired. The difference: these people are state-licensed professionals. Anyone can cook my burger but not just anyone can write me a referral or a prescription. I’m beginning to see the good intentions behind the proposal (I’m trying to see the issue from the other side) but at the same time, the matter is far too complex to become a ‘rule’ just yet (oh yeah, this proposed rule does not require congressional approval, once the thirty day public review period is over, it’s almost certainly going to be drafted into law).

There are far worthier rants out there on the deterioration of women’s reproductive rights. That aside, I wonder what my general practitioner would think if I showed up at my next checkup with a list of blunt questions regarding her beliefs:

  1. Are you pro-choice or pro-life?
  2. Do you disapprove of prescribing birth control?
  3. If I was a young teen, raped and now 2 months pregnant, would you give me a referral for an abortion even if I had the full support of my legal guardians?

Is it fair for me to call out my doctor on her personal beliefs the next time I see her? Does this proposed legislation give me any other choice if I want to get the best care possible? The beliefs of those in the health profession would be called into questioned even more as a result of this proposal, in spite of the fact that this ruling aims to protect said beliefs. I trust my doctor to give me a full array of available health options. This provision will deteriorate that patient-provider trust.

Who authored this ruling? Who lobbied for it? Why did I see an article in my local newspaper about this issue only yesterday? Why doesn’t everyone know about this? Do any gents out there have an opinion on this issue? Homosexuals, do you care about your reproductive rights because I’m betting the conservatives in power have a few things to say on the matter…

If you are interested in voicing your concern about the proposal above, the HSS document asks for comments here but see the document for instructions. There are also petitions here, here, here and here. The deadline for comments is September 25th- just one week away.

Happy Constitution Day.

3 replies on “Happy Constitution Day”

Consider, also: While for you and I, here in a relatively liberal social climate, taking our business to another doctor whose beliefs will allow them to give us the treatment we require… That’s not the case for everyone. In some places, there may not be another doctor available, or there may be, but they may have the same objections. What are those people to do? In all fairness, though, I think it is a good idea in general to know where your doctor stands on issues like reproductive rights, whether you’re afraid they’ll actually deny you treatment or not. I know, I know, they should be professional and give you the same quality treatment no matter what, but… This being the real world, beliefs and values can make a difference.That said, I’ve got no room to talk. I confess it’s never occurred to me to ask my GP those questions. I know Dr. Florini’s been very supportive of my birth control choices (ditto sterilization when the time comes), so I guess that answers that one, but otherwise I have no idea. But in any case I don’t think those are inappropriate questions for your GP, proposed rule or no proposed rule.


So true and with health care plans becoming more tyrannical, in-network choices may be even fewer or possibly non-existent if you live in a very rural area.I suppose ‘What do you believe about x?’ is a very different question from ‘Would you prescribe me…’ or ‘Would you perform x procedure.’ I would never come out and ask the first question, even if I suspected a value bias. I’d be uncomfortable with putting someone on the spot like that and making that person uncomfortable. Sure, every patient should ask the later questions.I probably knew at one point that we both see the same GP. I really like Florini.


First of all, thanks! I work in healthcare and didn’t know anything about this…inconceivable (unintentional word pun). My issue is that I don’t know how this wouldn’t contradict other healthcare policies, such as oh just off the top of my head…the hippocratic oath! Some people need sterilization, abortion or bcp for actual health reasons, so denying them that would actually put their health in jeopardy, but really that shouldn’t be a factor. Healthcare is a crazy system, and I think if this gets waved on, it will only get worse. Well, that’s my two cents…


Comments are closed.