Q&A with Barry Chase and Christie Petrone, 

Executive director and director of community affairs for Planned Parenthood

Last month, the Bush administration proposed stronger job protections for medical workers at federally funded health-care facilities who refuse to provide abortions on religious or moral grounds.

Abortion-rights groups fear the broadly worded rule also could allow doctors to deny patients access to birth control and emergency contraception. They say the new regulation leaves abortion undefined, so doctors who object to birth control may interpret the law to include any form of contraception.

If enacted, the policy would affect about 600,000 health-care facilities across the country, including the Med. The local Planned Parenthood organization is fighting the change by asking citizens who oppose the proposed policy to let the government know during a public-comment period that runs through September 25th. Comments can be directed to consciencecomment@hhs.gov. — Bianca Phillips

Flyer: Birth control isn't the same thing as abortion. Why do you think this policy would be interpreted to include access to birth control?

Barry Chase: Knowing the Bush administration's opinion of women's reproductive health care, we can assume that their interpretation will be detrimental to women's best interests. They have a history of dealing with things that way.

Christie Petrone: One of the reasons for us to be skeptical is there was an earlier version of this regulation that was leaked before they prepared the one we have now. That one did define abortion in such broad terms as to include contraception.

What affect would this have on local women who go to their doctor to get birth control?

Petrone: If a hospital decides they don't want to give emergency contraception to a rape victim, they won't have to. She won't even know that she can prevent pregnancy after a rape because they wouldn't be required to tell her.

Can't people just go to private doctors?

Chase: This will affect women who can't afford private health care the most. Theoretically, if you have private health care and you don't like what your doctor tells you, you can go somewhere else. But if you can't afford it, you have no other place to go.

Don't we have similar laws like this for pharmacists who object to birth control?

Chase: Even in states where pharmacists can refuse to fill a [birth control] prescription, the law requires them to see that the person finds another pharmacist who will fill it. This new regulation is so open-ended that it allows someone to not only refuse but not to tell the patient they have other options.

With an election coming up in less than two months, why would the Bush administration do this now?

Petrone: Right now, we're facing economic uncertainty, and we have more and more families that can't afford health insurance. With all the problems that we have now, we're trying to restrict access. It makes absolutely no sense. It's fueling the health-care crisis. If this is enacted, it's going to be a disaster.

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