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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Defending The Health Care Rights of Adolescents

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There is some very dangerous stuff happening at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in Washington D.C. There is a"Proposed Rule Ensuring that HHS Funds Do Not Support Coercive or Discriminatory Policies or Practices in Violation of Federal Law" (Fed Reg 73, No 166, August 26, 2008) that, if implemented would broaden the scope of the existing federal refusal laaws by allowing healthcare providers to withhold medical information based on their religious or moral beliefs. It would open the door for hospitals and physicians to deny access to or information about contraception.

Currently healthcare practitioners are not required to perform abortions or sterilizations if personal beliefs conflict with those procedures, however they are ethically bound to inform patients about all of their options and refer them to someone who will do those procedures. This new regulation would allow practitioners to not mention the options they did not agree with and a teen would never know what options she was not offered.

In addition, it widens the law by extending the right to refuse health services to a broad range of healthcare workers who are not directly involved in patient care. Receptionists could refuse to schedule appointments; health insurance agents could refuse to process payments; and operating room staff could refuse to clean equipment used for procedures they disagreed with.

In addition, the proposed regulation does not make explicit that healthcare providers cannot deny women contraceptives by claiming they are tantamount to abortion.

PLEASE!! The new regulations would affect 580,000 hospitals, clinics, and other entities and cost $44 million to enforce - give me a break!

The proposed regulation is unnecessary, would damage the integrity of the relationship between healthcare providers and patients, and would undermine the ability of women and families to make informed reproductive healthcare choices. Please join me and the organizations listed below in urging the HHS to withdraw this proposed regulations.

American Academy of Pediatrics
American Nurses Association
American Psychiatric Association
Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses
Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health
Society for Adolescent Medicine

Photo credit: ema
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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