Illinois action blog

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Governor Slams HHS Dept. Regulation as Dangerous to Women's Health

On Tuesday, Governor Rod Blagojevich stood up for the millions of women (as well as the hundreds of thousands of health care entities) that may be affected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regulation that was proposed in August. In a letter to Secretary Michael Leavitt, the Governor expressed his disapproval and asked that the proposal be withdrawn.

While in office, Blagojevich has fought for women's access to health care and he rightly views this proposal as one that will not only put access in jeopardy, but may also put women's safety at risk by allowing providers to withhold necessary, critical information. He knows that when politics are put ahead of patients' needs, you can't just sit back and watch. Read the full letter below.

Dear Secretary Leavitt:

I am writing to express my opposition to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed “provider conscience” rule. This proposed regulatory change could cause untold harm to 600,000 women in Illinois who are uninsured and depend on government or non-profit healthcare services supported, in part, with federal funds. If this proposed rule is adopted, a healthcare provider would be able to refuse to tell a vulnerable patient about the range of safe, legal healthcare options available to her. This proposed rule is not about providers’ consciences, it is about restricting access to healthcare to those in need.

As Governor, I have fought for the rights of women to have access to contraception and appropriate family planning choices equally. In April 2005, I issued an emergency rule, which later became permanent, requiring that pharmacists, who choose to work in pharmacies that sell contraception, dispense all forms of birth control with a valid prescription in a timely manner. I have also been careful to ensure that Illinois has policies that allow providers to offer alternative distribution methods, if they so choose. My goal then, and now, is to ensure that women have access to the healthcare they desire, when they need it.

As proposed, the HHS rule undermines states’ abilities to create and enforce their own laws and endangers the very protection and access to choices in family planning that Illinois has worked so hard to create. I am concerned that at a time when elected leaders across the country are working to increase access to healthcare for all Americans, the proposed rule will promote a culture of refusal and denial of service.

Employees working at federally funded healthcare facilities should deliver the services their patients request. With estimates that up to 600,000 healthcare entities such as hospitals, clinics and pharmacies will be impacted by this rule, this action could lead to irrevocable harm for the U.S. healthcare system at a time when it is already struggling.

I urge you, for the safety and health of all women, to withdraw the proposed provider conscience rule.


Rod R. Blagojevich

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, Planned Parenthood
, Rod Blagojevich
, HHS Department


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