WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's administration took a first step on Friday to rescind a controversial Bush-mandated regulation allowing healthcare professionals to refuse to provide services and information on moral grounds.
An official at the Department of Health and Human Services said the Bush administration rule had "upset the balance" between allowing doctors to decline to provide abortions and protecting the rights of women to get the care they need.
Current law includes a conscience clause for providers who do not want to perform abortions, but the Bush administration rule that took effect January 20 went much further, the agency official said on condition of anonymity.
It was vague enough to let health professionals invoke the conscience clause for things like contraceptives, family planning and counseling for vaccines and blood transfusions, she said.
"We recognize and understand that some providers have objections to providing abortions. We want to ensure that current law protects them," the official said.
"But we do not want to impose new limitations on services ... like family planning and contraception that would actually help prevent the need for an abortion in the first place."
. . . "Today's action by the Obama administration demonstrates that this president is not going to stand by and let women's health be placed in jeopardy," said Cecile Richards, head of the Planned Parenthood Federation.
Mary Jane Gallagher, head of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, called it an "important start."
"Women and men who depend on these services cannot afford for their access to counseling, education, contraception and preventive health screenings to be limited by this extreme rule," she said.