Obama Proposes Overturning Bush’s ‘Right to Conscience’ Rule

March 06, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

The White House has proposed a regulation to overturn a controversial Bush administration rule that expanded the rights of health care workers to deny services they deem morally objectionable.

Taking effect in the final days of the George W. Bush’s presidency, the so-called “right of conscience” rule angered many lawmakers, health care advocates and women’s rights groups, who feared the change would limit women’s access to contraceptives and other reproductive health services. The Obama administration’s proposal, originating from the Department of Health and Human Services, would simply rescind the Bush rule.

The White House justifies the move like this:

Commenters asserted that the rule would limit access to patient care and raised concerns that individuals could be denied access to services, with effects felt disproportionately by those in rural areas or otherwise underserved. The Department believes that the comments on the August 2008 proposed rule raised a number of questions that warrant further careful consideration. It is important that the Department have the opportunity to review this regulation to ensure its consistency with current Administration policy.”

In the eyes of many advocates, the decision is change they can believe in. Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued a statement Friday cheering the move:

Patients, especially low income women, deserve access to complete and accurate health care information and services and today’s action shows that this administration understands and will meet this need. This is a common sense fix.

The White House will accept public comments for the next 30 days.