Smack in the middle of the Holiday Season, outgoing President George W. Bush has given us a present worse than coal.
The Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule today that allows health care workers to deny patients vital care, information and services without the patient even knowing.
The rule will take effect in 30 days, and will be difficult to reverse.
Unfortunately, this regulation is not just another crazy Bush regulation that New Yorkers, thanks to our local laws, are safe from. In fact this regulation could quite possibly overturn many of our State's hard-won healthcare victories, meaning that:
• Rape victims would not be provided with Emergency Contraception in a timely manner;
• Pharmacies could discriminate or delay access to birth control; and
• Health insurance plans that cover prescription drugs would not also have to cover birth control.
Thanks to this midnight regulation, New Yorkers can no longer go to the Emergency Room and trust that a provider's sole motivation is to give the best care available. Instead health care workers from the doctor down to those behind the check-in desk are free to withhold information about any procedure they find distasteful, without even letting you know that they are doing so.
The terms of this regulation are so vague that its possibilities are staggering. Janitors could refuse to clean rooms that have had sterilizations performed in them. And yes, birth control really could be considered abortion.
Bush wanted to leave a powerful legacy, and he's done it. In one stroke of the pen, he's managed to undermine the trust between patient and provider.
Obama may reverse this rule, and by all means let him and your congressperson know that you think he should. But until then, you'd better hope that Santa doesn't have a moral objection to your Christmas list.
Joan Malin is the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City.