Christine Stuart photo
Laura Cordes of ConnSacs (Christine Stuart photo)

A regulation proposed by the federal Health and Human Services Department may completely undo Connecticut’s new Compassionate Care Act, which requires hospitals and health care professionals to tell rape victims about emergency contraception.

At a press conference Wednesday morning Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and reproductive rights advocates explained that if the new regulation were accepted it would require all federally funded health care institutions to certify in writing that they would respect the conscience rights of its employees to refuse to participate in abortions due to religious or moral objections.

Susan Yolen, vice president of public affairs and communication at Planned Parenthood of Connecticut, said “Even though longstanding law allows doctors to refuse to perform abortions, this rule would allow employees or even volunteers of a health care entity to refuse to assist in offering any treatment they object to.”

Blumenthal pointed out that the wording in the draft regulation “is dangerously vague in defining abortion and may be interpreted to include birth control.”

“This rule could seriously endanger hard-fought patient and victim rights in Connecticut—including assurances that sexual assault victims are provided emergency contraception,” Blumenthal said in a press release.

Laura Cordes, director of policy and advocacy for Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services Inc., said “It is the job of counselors and advocates to provide information and options, including information about reproductive health care, and support decisions that a victim makes, even if it is a choice they would not make for themselves.”

Blumenthal said today is the last day for the public to submit comments to the Health and Human Services Department. He said it’s possible the outgoing Bush administration could finalize the regulation before he leaves office.

To that end, Blumenthal and attorney generals from Arizonia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Vermont, Utah and six other states including Connecticut have written a letter asking the Health and Human Services Department to withdraw the proposed regulation.

“The proposed regulation completely obliterates the rights of patients to legal and medically necessary health care services in favor of a single-minded focus on protecting a health care provider’s right to claim a personal moral or religious belief,” the letter signed by the 13 attorney general’s states. “In any health care setting, there must be a balance between a patient’s right to necessary and appropriate medical care, a health provider’s legal, moral, and ethical responsibilities to provide necessary and appropriate patient care and the personal moral and religious views of the provider.”