"That you may ruminate"

…On a Cabinet Secretary’s Blog

Posted by Steve on August 19, 2008

My old friend Ames (we go back to the mid-90s) posted on his blog, Submitted to a Candid World, about a month ago about a draft Department of Health & Human Services regulation to 1) prohibit Federal funds to any governmental (at any level) program or entity that “subjects any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions” and 2) classify contraceptives as abortifacents.

Following up on that, I discovered that Health & Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt has his own blog, which it appears he writes & staff moderates comments on. On this, he has two posts, Physician Conscience and Physician Conscience Blog 2 in which he addresses this proposal and public reaction to it. I encourage you to read it for yourself because I think you learn more from primary sources than secondary sources. But to sum up what he says:

  1. He believes there exists “a physician’s right to choose whether he or she performs abortion”
  2. Three pre-existing Federal laws he doesn’t specify (and I don’t know what they are – I’d say Hyde Amendment was one, but I think that just forbids any Federal funds from being spent on abortions) grant legal recognition and protection to that right.
  3. Various (unspecified) medical organizations have been trying to subvert/violate those laws.
  4. He asked that this regulation be written to address #4.
  5. Addressing contraceptives is unintended.
  6. The draft was a preliminary draft that hadn’t even gotten to his desk yet when it became public knowledge.
  7. He isn’t certain that any regulation will be passed.

Now, #6 certainly fits how I’d expect things to be done: various staff write some proposals, bounce them around, and eventually send something to the Cabinet Secretary for them to read, comment on, and send back for changes, until eventually there’s something the Cabinet Secretary likes enough to stick in the Federal Register… and I guess that starts up a public comment period?

Obviously, I disagree with #1. Especially as concerns pharmacists, since this may insult them, but oh well: I think the only difference between a pharmacist and a vending machine is that a pharmacist can say “Hey, I shouldn’t give you SSRIs and MAOIs at the same time” while a vending machine can’t. But with #1 as well, I think providing for abortion’s part of a doctor’s duties, and as doctors knowingly and voluntarily join their profession, it seems to me they ought to be treated as knowingly and voluntarily assuming all of those duties. Plus, I think their “act of conscience” is patently immoral.

That said, I can see a pragmatic reason not to require doctors who oppose abortion to perform one. Nothing wrong with compelling them to make a substitute doctor available to their patient, but compelling them to perform the procedure themself just doesn’t seem like something that would actually work – at least not without some serious unintended (but highly foreseeable) consequences.

Anyway, I think more Cabinet Secretaries should have blogs, I beat Ames to the punch on this, I’m thinking about leaving a comment on Leavitt’s blog but am worried about it being in the results when people Google my name and causing me trouble at work or something, and Firefox’s spellcheck tried telling me that “abortifacents” isn’t a word – ditto with “spellcheck” itself. Totally is so a word, and Wikipedia can take that extra “i” in abortifacient and shove it.


5 Responses to “…On a Cabinet Secretary’s Blog”

  1. […] regulation, read my coverage here, a great analysis here, and coverage of Leavitt’s response here.  In brief, the regulation would classify contraceptives as abortions, and permit doctors to […]

  2. Ames said

    YOU TOTALLY beat me to the punch on this! UGH! Leavitt! You little liar!!! I linked you from my page too 🙂

  3. […] Comments Ames on …On a Cabinet Secretary…HHS Followup: Aborti… on …On a Cabinet Secretary…Ames on …On the […]

  4. […] we learned that Secretary of Health and Human Services has enrolled the “Provider Conscience Regulation” – labeling as “discrimination” & […]

  5. […] regulation, read my coverage here, a great analysis here, and coverage of Leavitt’s response here.  In brief, the regulation would classify contraceptives as abortions, and permit doctors to […]

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