Now It's Legal, Who Knows About Tuesday

The AG is suing the federal government about a rule that could trump state abortion, contraception laws

Today abortion is legal in Connecticut, but Tuesday it might not be.  But then again, it might be.  It depends on how your doctor defines it and whether he or she feels OK about performing the procedure, according to the Attorney General.

That’s why Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is suing the federal government on behalf of seven states, including Connecticut.

It’s all a matter of a federal rule the Bush administration issued last month. It offers more protection, so to speak, for doctors and other health care workers who refuse to participate in abortions and other medical procedures because of religious or moral objections.

The law, which is set to take effect on President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration day, would trump state laws protecting women's access to birth control, reproductive health services and emergency contraception, according to attorneys general.

Blumenthal filed the lawsuit in Hartford federal court Thursday on behalf of the states.

"These regulations are flawed and defective," Blumenthal said, claiming they would "unconstitutionally and unconscionably interfere with women's health care rights."

The rule "shrouds the term abortion in new and unnecessary ambiguity," Blumenthal said. It encourages medical providers to define it themselves and deny patients contraception, including emergency contraception for rape victims, he said.

The administration has said the rule is intended to ensure that federal funds don't flow to providers who violate those laws.

"Doctors and other health care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said last month when the rule was issued. A call was left Thursday with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Obama's transition team has said he will deal with "all eleventh-hour regulations" once he is president.

In August, Obama criticized the proposal: "This proposed regulation complicates, rather than clarifies the law. It raises troubling issues about access to basic health care for women, particularly access to contraceptives," he said.

California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island joined Connecticut in the lawsuit, which seeks a court order blocking the new rule.

Planned Parenthood of Federation of America Inc. and National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association said they are filing separate, parallel lawsuits.

Mary Jane Gallagher, president and CEO of the family planning association, said the rule is unnecessary because there have been laws on the books for decades protecting medical providers if they refuse to participate in abortions and sterilization services.

She accused the Bush administration of trying to appease religious conservatives who are opposed to contraception.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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