Throughout its tenure, the Bush Administration has subverted the democratic process and undermined access to health care for millions of Americans. We have seen this several times over the last eight years. Many of you know the highlights -- President Bush's veto of my legislation expanding stem cell research and of the Children's Health Care Insurance Program, both of which were passed by the House and Senate with strong bipartisan support; the seven proposed Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) rules limiting Medicaid patients access to health care; and now, the Administration's latest attempt to restrict access to birth control with yet another proposed regulation.
The proposed Health and Human Service Department (HHS) rule would require any health care entity that receives federal financing to certify in writing that none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already prohibits employers from discriminating based on employees' or applicants' religious beliefs or practices. The Administration's own Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sent HHS comments in September calling the proposed rule "unnecessary for protection of employees and applicants," "potentially confusing" to the health care community, and "a burden on covered employers, particularly small employers." The proposed rule is a transparent attempt by the Administration to restrict access to health care, especially reproductive health care.
I am proud to have partnered with Senators Clinton and Murray, and Congresswoman Slaughter, to send a strong message to the Bush Administration that this is the wrong direction for health care policy in America. Our legislation, introduced in both the Senate and House Thursday, would keep HHS from moving forward with this dangerous rule. The Bush Administration's 11th hour attempt to restrict access to reproductive health care is not only abusive, but also threatens everyone's access to other vital health care services. The Bush Administration continues to pursue its extreme ideology over sound public health care policies even as it enters its final days.
As the co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, I am committed to fighting the Bush Administration's attempts to restrict health care until its final day. Our country needs common-sense approaches to health care policy based on science and the public good, not just political ideology. I look forward to a new direction in health care policy in the 111th Congress and under the Obama Administration.
DeGette is the Vice Chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over health care policy, and co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus.
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