State AGs may band together over ‘conscience clause,’ but not Colorado

Expanding on Mike Lillis’ story today on Capitol Hill Democrats’ attempts to repeal the 11th-hour Bush administration “conscience clause” rule that threatens women’s reproductive health care, 13 states may be planning a federal court challenge should political remedies fail.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal told US News and World Report that the controversial new regulation tramples on states’ and patients’ rights.

At issue are state laws requiring hospitals to provide information and, in some cases, emergency contraception to rape victims upon request. Abortion foes argue that delivering such care could violate health care providers’ religious and/or moral beliefs and have been pushing for an expansion of the “conscience clause” enjoyed by pharmacists who refuse to dispense contraception.

Reproductive health advocates worry that the rule could have far-reaching implications — beyond making an abortion more difficult to obtain — by threatening contraception, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research which are all vigorously opposed by religious conservatives.

Colorado’s 2007 emergency contraception lawcould also be at risk should the hurried U.S. Health and Human Service regulation take effect on Jan. 18, forty-eight hours before President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Presidential transition team officials have stated that Obama also opposes the HHS rule and is seeking remedies to rescind it, along with several other “midnight regulations” passed in the waning days of the Bush administration. reports that HHS officials indicate the 127-page regulation to protect health care providers of faith from violating their conscience will cost taxpayers $44 million to implement.

The anti-abortion Web site claims that, in addition to Connecticut, 12 other states — Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont — are likely to join the legal challenge since they initially voiced opposition to the rule during the public comment phase.

Nate Strauch, spokesman for state Attorney General John Suthers, told The Colorado Independent that Colorado has not been asked to join the suit and deferred further comment on its merits.

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