'Conscience' Rule Threatens to Reignite Abortion Battle

Bush's last-minute new rule for medical workers sparks controversy
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 2, 2008 8:29 AM CST
Abortion protesters rally in Olympia, Wash., earlier this year as they mark the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – An expanded "right of conscience" rule for medical workers planned by the Bush administration could hand Barack Obama a major battle over medical ethics, the Los Angeles Times reports. Doctors and nurses can already legally refuse to perform abortions, but the new rule would allow any health care worker to opt out of procedures they find morally objectionable. The rule could possibly include artificial insemination or birth control.

"This goes way beyond abortion," said a lawyer from the National Women's Health Center. "This kind of rule could wreak havoc in a hospital if any employee can declare they are not willing to do certain parts of their job." Obama will be able to overturn the new rule, but it will likely take months and provoke bitter controversy.