Whatever Happened to Rescinding that Conscience Rule?

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I realize we could probably run a whole “Whatever Happened To…?” series. But here’s my entry for today. While reading the Washington Post’s story on the Pentagon and morning-after pills, I noticed that it placed the Plan B decision alongside other pro-abortion rights policy moves, including “[an announcement]…rescinding a federal regulation that would have expanded the ability of health-care workers to refuse to provide medical care they found morally objectionable, including abortion and Plan B.”

The thing of it is, I’m pretty sure the Obama administration never followed through and rescinded the “conscience rule,” as it’s known. Sure, White House officials announced last February that they intended to repeal the expanded conscience exception for health care workers that George W. Bush’s HHS put in place during his last month in office. HHS even held a 30-day public comment period on the proposed change and was inundated with appeals from both sides. And Obama mentioned the rule in his commencement address at Notre Dame, suggesting that he would prefer not to repeal but to revise the rule: “Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion and draft a sensible conscience clause.”

But as far as I can tell, that Bush conscience rule is still on the books and hasn’t been changed. I suspect that as with Obama’s campaign pledge to repeal the Bush executive order allowing faith-based groups that receive federal funds to discriminate in hiring, the White House quickly learned that some of its allies in the religious community liked the conscience rule and didn’t want to see it taken away. So they apparently decided to lay low and hold off on making any changes. What’s surprising is that they’ve gotten away with it so far without vocal protests from the choice community.