I promised I'd post on this, so I shall---the Bush administration took the petition by MoveOn, Planned Parenthood and RH Reality Check demanding that HHS conscience clause regulations not redefine contraception as abortion, and told the reality-based community to shove it up our asses. Individual providers of all sorts---even volunteers---allowed to define "abortion" for themselves (people cutting me off in traffic are abortion!). Bush and Leavitt are claiming this only protects doctors from having to perform abortions or sterilizations, which causes me to wonder why support staff and volunteers are protected, as you usually don't have the cleaning staff or the brow-mopers performing surgery on you. In the right hands, this regulation gives broad permission to anti-choicers who work for the medical establishment in any capacity to make trouble for women seeking contraception, abortion, or sterilization. From the AP article:

The regulation is written to apply to a broad swath of the health care work force, not doctors alone. Accordingly, an employee whose task it is to clean the instruments used in a particular procedure would be covered. Also covered would be volunteers and trainees.

The underlying laws deal mainly with abortion and sterilization, but both the laws and the language of the rule seem to recognize that objections on conscience grounds could involve other types of services.

Of course, the idea behind the conscience clauses is to empower a lot of secondary health care staff---nurses, pharmacists, etc.---to create obstacles and take opportunities to humiliate and shame patients for having a sex life the "care" provider disapproves of. Step down this road far enough, and we could see people die because obstacles to care and harassment created by workers in hospitals attending to those suffering from AIDS-related illnesses.

Why is the Bush administration doing this now, when they're on their way out? My suspicion is that it's a campaign assist for John McCain. The McCain campaign has a tightrope to walk---continue to delude the low information, mushy middle voters about his hostility to women's basic rights while convincing the hard right social conservatives that the Republicans are looking out for them. This assault on contraception and women and gay men's access to health care is a big giveaway to the hard right, to bolster their enthusiasm going into November, but because it's Bush doing it, and not McCain, the mushy middle will not hang this on McCain.

This is where the mainstream media needs to do its fucking job and hang this on McCain. He needs to be asked, repeatedly and on camera, if he supports this rewrite and if his administration, should he be elected, uphold this assault on access to contraception. We've already got him on record afraid to say that he supports insurance companies who cover Viagra and not birth control. He owes it to the American people to let us know how far the anti-contraception road he's willing to go.

And for the wack-a-doodle PUMAs going crazy on the blog, of course Obama should be asked the same thing. Since he signed the MoveOn petition, I suspect his answer will line up with the mainstream pro-contraception opinion of the country.