Press Room

December 19, 2008

Category: HIV & AIDS

Human Rights Campaign Expresses Concern about So-Called “Provider Conscience” Regulations

"These regulations sacrifice patients' right to medical care, permitting providers to refuse to do their jobs when they choose," said HRC President Joe Solmonese

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign today expressed concern over Department of Health and Human Services regulations regarding "provider conscience." These regulations purport to interpret federal law to allow a health care provider to refuse to provide any health care service or information for a religious or moral reason. These regulations could impair LGBT patients' access to care services if interpreted to permit providers to choose patients based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or family structure. In addition, under these regulations a provider might be able to refuse to administer an HIV test to a gay patient, and even be exempt from the statutory duty to tell the patient where else he could receive the test. Under the regulation, a pharmacist could refuse to fill a prescription for hormone therapy if she has religious objection to transgender people. The regulations would also threaten women's access to comprehensive health care by permitting pharmacists to refuse to dispense contraception even when doing so significantly burdens the patient's access, or to refuse to participate in an emergency abortion even when the woman's health is at risk. The regulations override many state laws protecting patients' access to medical services.

"These regulations sacrifice patients' right to medical care, permitting providers to refuse to do their jobs when they choose," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "We ask the Bush administration: what happened to 'first, do no harm?' Denying patients legal, safe medical treatments for any reason is simply wrong, and violates the trust that all Americans, regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity, place in our doctors, nurses, and pharmacists."

HRC submitted comments objecting to these regulations when they were proposed, asking the administration to amend them to protect patients while preserving religious liberty. We are now calling on Congress to take action to eliminate these harmful regulations, and will encourage the incoming HHS leadership to amend them through the regulatory process.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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