Pelavin: "This regulation will alarmingly narrow patients' access to a wide range of basic health services"
WASHINGTON, D.C., December 19, 2008 - The Department of Health and Human Services published today a broad new so-called "Right of Conscience" regulation that would limit patients' access to reproductive health services and information. In response to this regulation, Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
We are deeply concerned by the Bush Administration's "Right of Conscience" rule, as its overly broad definitions and diminished right of patients' access to services is profoundly troubling. Unless reversed, this regulation will alarmingly narrow patients' access to a wide range of basic health services and information, including reproductive health services, by allowing physicians, pharmacists and other health providers to refuse to offer services they deem morally objectionable.
As a religious body, we are concerned with resolving the conflict when a health care provider objects on religious grounds to providing the care sought by the patient. This involves balancing the provider's religious liberty against the patient's right to make her own health care decisions. Our fundamental principle is that patients should be provided with the health care they request without delay. Only when accommodation of religious objections can be achieved consistent with this goal should such objections be accommodated.
The Reform Jewish Movement's longstanding commitment to the principles of religious liberty and reproductive freedom are not mutually exclusive goals, though the "Right of Conscience" rule creates the false dynamic of a zero sum game. The Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Women of Reform Judaism, and the North American Federation of Temple Youth have consistently, and in a wide variety of contexts, condemned government interference with an individual's right to practice his or her own religion. Similarly, for decades, the Reform Movement has supported a woman's right to control her own reproductive health decisions. Striking the proper balance between these two commitments is critical.
We call upon President-elect Obama and Secretary-designate Daschle to take the necessary action to reverse this regulation as quickly as possible. In the continued battle over reproductive rights, we, as Reform Jews and as people of faith, stand firmly in our commitment to protect women's access to reproductive health services.