The New York Civil Liberties Union today strongly condemned regulations released by the Bush administration that could jeopardize access to contraception and other basic health care services for millions of women in New York and across the country. The regulations were issued despite 200,000 comments that were filed in opposition by the ACLU and its state affiliates, medical associations, women’s health organizations, members of Congress, state governors and attorneys general, religious advocates and the general public.

“Until today, federal law has struck a careful balance between protecting patients’ access to reproductive health care and individual religious liberty,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. “Today’s regulation cavalierly tosses out that long-standing balance, and takes patients’ needs out of the equation.”

The regulations drastically expand the ability of health care providers and institutions to refuse to provide health care services – and even information and referrals – to patients in the following ways:

  • They open the door for health care providers to refuse to provide contraception, as well as abortion.
  • They permit health care workers to refuse to provide complete and accurate information and counseling to women who seek services.
  • They place the refusal rights of employees above the health care needs of patients or the ability of the health care agencies to provide medical care.

The regulations also conflict with several New York State laws, including:

  • State and local laws requiring emergency rooms to provide emergency contraception to rape survivors;
  • The “Women’s Health and Wellness Act,” which requires employers who offer prescription drug coverage to cover birth control; and
  • State laws requiring provision of emergency medical care.

“You would think that at a time when Americans are struggling to pay their bills and the entire health care system is in crisis, the president would focus on making it easier, not harder, to get health care,” said Galen Sherwin, director of the NYCLU’s Reproductive Rights Project. “These regulations once again show how out of step this administration is with the needs of the vast majority of Americans.”