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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 9, 2008

Governor Blagojevich Blasts Proposed Federal “Provider Conscience” Rules as Dangerous to Women’s Health
New regulation would pit providers’ beliefs against women’s healthcare needs

CHICAGOGovernor Rod R. Blagojevich today denounced proposed federal rules being promoted by U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Michael Leavitt.  The new regulations, if allowed to take effect, would permit healthcare providers to use personal beliefs rather than prudent medical practice to guide the delivery of federally funded medical services.
 
In requesting the withdrawal of the proposed rule, Governor Blagojevich points out that he acted to protect women in Illinois from being blocked from obtaining prescriptions because of the conscience concerns of some pharmacists.  The rules that are in effect in Illinois, commonly known as the “Plan B” rules, demonstrate that a right of conscience and the need for appropriate healthcare can be reconciled.
 
“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 are working to increase access to healthcare for all Americans, the proposed rule will promote a culture of refusal and denial of service,” said Governor Blagojevich in his letter to the Secretary.
 
At a time when more than 600,000 uninsured women depend on critical healthcare from government funded providers, President Bush and Secretary Leavitt are fueling our healthcare crisis by denying women’s access to quality, affordable healthcare.
 
A copy of the Governor’s letter to Secretary Leavitt follows:
 
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.
 
 
Sincerely,
 
Rod R. Blagojevich


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