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ACLU Report Finds Paul Ryan Light Years Away from Civil Liberties – news from

17 Aug

The following blog post was taken from an August 11 post on  ACLU Liberty Watch, a website of the ACLU Liberty Watch 2012 campaign being run by the American Civil Liberties Union. Visit to learn more about the ACLU’s civil libertarian take on all of the news surrounding the Presidential election campaigns. 

In response to Mitt Romney’s announcement of his vice presidential pick of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the American Civil Liberties Union Liberty Watch 2012 campaign released a brief report that reveals an appalling civil liberties record for Ryan.

The report finds that Ryan, the congressman representing Wisconsin’s 1st District, holds almost uniformly harmful views on five key civil liberties issues including a humane immigration policy, LGBT equality, reproductive rights, torture and indefinite detention and fair voting access. The report is based on the white paper released by ACLU Liberty Watch 2012, which can be viewed here.

The report was also cited in a recent opinion piece in The Nation where writer Ben Adler called Rep. Ryan out for not really following Ayn Rand’s philosophies on freedom when it came to his staunchly social conservative agenda.

“Paul Ryan may end up a heartbeat away from the presidency but he’ll be light years from civil liberties,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director. “Paired with Romney’s already-abysmal record on civil liberties, Ryan’s positions only take this ticket further from the vision of our founding fathers.”  Romero also issued a statement about how Vice Presidential hopeful Ryan would have a plan to unravel civil liberties.

The report found that Ryan held anti-civil liberties positions across all five issue areas.  Below are some highlights from the report.

On immigration, Ryan voted in favor of the Secure Fence Act, a bill that authorized the building of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. On LGBT equality, he voted against repealing the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. In 2011, Ryan voted to reinstate the D.C. abortion ban and the Global Gag Rule, defund Planned Parenthood, and eliminate funding for Title X family planning programs. In addition, he believes discriminatory voter ID laws are important and improve integrity in elections.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s positions:  These positions were taken from the candidate’s public statements, published positions and actions taken as an elected official, including his most recent voting records, where applicable.
On Immigration:
  • Believes efforts should be focused on border security and that pursuing the DREAM Act at this time would be a “serious mistake” (2012).
  • Voted in favor of the Secure Fence Act, a bill that authorized the building of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border (2006).
On LGBT Equality:
  • Voted against repealing the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy (2011).
  • Supports the 2006 amendment to the Wisconsin constitution banning marriage equality (2006).
  • Voted in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment (2004, 2006).
On Reproductive Freedom:
  • Voted to reinstate the D.C. abortion ban and the Global Gag Rule, defund Planned Parenthood, and eliminate funding for Title X family planning programs (2011). 
  • Cosponsored a bill that exempted any employer from providing contraceptive coverage as part of their employees’ health care and opposed the Obama administration’s compromise to require insurance companies to cover contraception (2011).  
  • Cosponsored and voted to pass the Protect Life Act (2011). 
  • Cosponsored and voted to pass the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (May 2011). 
  • Voted to prohibit federal funding for abortion care training in health care centers. (May 2011) 
On Torture and Indefinite Detention Policy:
  • Voted against defense legislation that authorizes the president to send the military anywhere in the world to imprison civilians without charge or trial (2011).
On Voting Rights:
  • Believes discriminatory voter ID laws are important and improve integrity in elections (2012).

ACLU Liberty Watch 2012 is the voice for the Constitution in the this year’s presidential election. Follow Liberty Watch on Twitter: @ACLULW, or ‘Like’ the Facebook page:

Insurance Reform Decision from Supreme Court Welcome News to Women, Minorities

28 Jun

The U.S. Supreme Court decision today upheld the linchpin of the Affordable Care Act by ruling 5-4 that the government can tax individuals who choose not to buy health insurance.

The principal opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts.

  • Five members of the Court agreed that the requirement that individuals either purchase health insurance or make an additional payment on their federal income taxes – the so-called individual mandate – was a constitutionally permissible tax imposed on those who did not purchase health insurance.
  • The individual mandate was thus upheld even though five members of the Court, including Chief Justice Roberts, rejected the government’s principal argument that the individual mandate was a proper exercise of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause.
  • Five members of the Court also agreed that Congress could withhold new Medicaid funds from states that did not expand their Medicaid coverage as required by the new health care law, but could not withhold funds for pre-existing Medicaid programs.

“The ACLU welcomes today’s decision, which recognizes that Congress has the constitutional authority to fix a health care system that does not work for millions of Americans,” said Steven R. Shapiro, ACLU legal director. “The decision is especially welcome for disadvantaged minorities, who are more likely to be uninsured, and for women, who are more likely to suffer gaps and discrimination in their health care coverage. We trust that the states will recognize those needs and accept the additional funds that the federal government is offering under the new law to expand Medicaid coverage for needy individuals.”

The American Civil Liberties Union joined with the NAACP on a friend of the court brief which is available online.

In Wisconsin, Governor Walker restated his opposition to insurance exchanges and President Obama’s insurance reform plan. He also signed a bill into law that would ban abortion coverage in any potential health insurance exchanges in Wisconsin. We testified against the bill and continue to oppose discriminatory limits on women’s health care services or insurance coverage.

The text of this blog post can also be found on the national ACLU’s website.

Wisconsin Senators Move to Turn Back the Clock on Sex Ed

18 Oct

In a fast-moving piece of legislation, Senators are using Governor Walker’s special session on job creation to repeal the progress made after the passage of the 2009 Healthy Youth Act. The Healthy Youth Act raised the state standards for public school human growth and development instruction.

We just read in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week that teen pregnancy rates have been declining since 2009,” said Stacy Harbaugh, Communications Strategist for the ACLU of Wisconsin. “This bill is so poorly timed. Not only does this piece of legislation not create a single job in our state, it threatens to move us backwards in building up the next generation of informed, healthy youth. We all know teens need information to make healthy and responsible decisions about sex. Parents and youth should be outraged at this legislative sabotage.”

This bill removes information on the health benefits of contraceptives to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections as well as a requirement for schools to identify support for victims of sexual assault. This bill requires schools to revert back to the proven failure of abstinence-until-marriage types of instruction. This bill even redefines what “medically accurate” and “age appropriate” means.

The comprehensive sexuality education model is based on evidence that when teens participate in school and community programs that stress both the importance of waiting to have sex while providing accurate, age-appropriate, medically accurate and complete information about the use of contraceptives to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, teens delay sex and reduce sexual risk-taking.

For all young people, but especially those who do not receive medically accurate information from their parents, church or peers, our public schools are the best places to give them nondiscriminatory facts about how to stay healthy and make responsible choices. Repealing the Health Youth Act would be a regressive move for Wisconsin’s students and public health.

Senate Bill 237 will get a hearing in the Senate Committee on Education Wednesday, October 19 at noon in room 201 SE in the Capitol. You can read ACLU of Wisconsin live tweets of the hearing @ACLUMadison.

Call your state legislators and tell them to keep comprehensive sex ed for Wisconsin students. In Madison: 266-9960; Toll-free: 1-800-362-9472

Madison ACLU Celebrates Banned Books Week

4 Oct

Thanks to everyone who came out to the ACLU’s Banned Books Week happy hour. A part of the Wisconsin Book Festival’s line up, the happy hour was a time for book lovers and free speech supporters to gather and celebrate the right to read.

Co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Roundtable, the event featured IFRT board member Val Edwards who helped us toast the librarians and book defenders who keep even controversial books available to the public.

Val introduced ACLU of Wisconsin Community Advocate, Stacy Harbaugh, who asked everyone to raise a glass and shout out their favorite book on the challenged book list. Harbaugh shared the stories behind some high-profile book challenges in Wisconsin over the past year (such as in Fond du Lac and West Bend) and thanked ACLU members for their passionate and dedicated support.

As a thank-you to those who attended the event, we were able to give away some ACLU t-shirts, stickers and hats for door prizes. Other generous contributions included fair trade coffee from Just Coffee, a gift certificate for A Room Of One’s Own Bookstore. We also thank Jesse Russell from Dane 101 for donating two tickets to the Freakin’ Halloweekend bash which were the first of the door prizes to go.

Stay tuned to the Cap City Liberty blog for the announcement of our next happy hour. Slated for February, we are planning on an event with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin to invite people to be a part of the reproductive freedom agenda for 2011.

Didn’t get a chance to donate to the ACLU of Wisconsin at the happy hour? Your support is always welcome – you can give back on our website or through Community Shares of Wisconsin and their workplace giving campaigns.

Take Action: Demand Abortion Rights Protection in Federal Health Care Reform

30 Nov

Stop the Abortion Coverage Ban
Rally for Women’s Health

Wednesday, December 2 at Noon
Capitol Square – State Street Steps
Featuring Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton

The House of Representatives passed a health care reform bill that includes an amendment by Reps. Stupak and Pitts that will effectively eliminate all insurance coverage for abortion. Currently, 85% of insurance plans in the private market currently cover these services. This ban on abortion coverage in health care reform is a direct attack on women’s health.

Now the Senate is set to begin debate on health care reform. We must ensure that the Senate bill does not include a similar amendment banning abortion coverage.

Please join us for a Rally on Wednesday, 12/2, to tell our legislators that we will not stand for attacks on women’s health in health care reform and to Stop the Abortion Coverage Ban!

The rally coincides with a National Day of Action & Stop Stupak-Pitts event in Washington D.C. and the ACLU will be among the protesters.

Here is what we need from you:

1. Join us in Madison on Wednesday, December 2 at Noon, for a Rally for Women’s Health at the State Capitol (State Street Steps). More information is attached and also pasted below. Note: in the event of rain, the rally will be moved inside to the Assembly Parlor on the 2nd floor west of the State Capitol.

2. Call Senator Kohl at (800) 247-5645 and Senator Feingold at (608) 828-1215 to let them know we are counting on them to vote against any amendment that bans abortion coverage in the health care reform bill.

3. Attend the National Stop Stupak-Pitts Rally and Lobby Day in Washington DC on 12/2. For more information about bus transportation departing 12/1 and returning 12/3, contact or as soon as possible.

4. Email Senators Kohl and Feingold by going to the ACLU take action page on this issue and completing a simple form.

5. Volunteer to help collect petition signatures at the rally on 12/2. Contact Lisa at NARAL Prochoice Wisconsin or call (608) 287-0016 if you are available to volunteer.

Rally Sponsors: NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Madison NOW, Wisconsin Law Students for Reproductive Justice, Women’s Medical Fund, Single Payer Action Network, Beloit College GOGA Women’s Health Club, Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, ACLU Wisconsin, Wisconsin Women’s Network.

Q&A on Contraceptive Equity and Religious Discrimination: Budget Provision Thumbs Up

16 Jun

The Wisconsin Assembly just gave the green light to their version of the state budget this weekend. Contraceptive equity was one of the debated items: the policy would require all insurance companies that provide prescriptions to include contraceptive drugs and devices in their coverage.

Birth control is a basic part of health care for women and when most Wisconsinites get their health care through their employer, contraceptive equity is essential to workplace fairness.

But critics of the policy decry religious discrimination, particularly when citing religious-based health care providers’ health care benefits for their own employees. The ACLU of Wisconsin supports contraceptive equity and below is a Q&A with Executive Director Chris Ahmuty on how the policy strikes a constitutionally approved balance between the rights of patients, workers and institutions.

Should a nurses’ aide at a hospital owned by a Catholic religious order or the cafeteria lady at a Catholic parochial school be denied access to birth control because their employers’ are offended on “moral grounds”?
No. But, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference appears to want to be able to do just that. The conference has asked the Wisconsin Legislature to exempt Catholic institutions from a provision in the state budget that confirms the duty of all Wisconsin employers to include contraceptive drugs and devices among the drugs covered by their health insurance plans.

Do all employees of all Catholic institutions have to accept that their employers won’t allow them access to birth control even though it is medically indicated and morally acceptable to the employee?
No, unless the members of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference are able to exempt themselves and other Catholic affiliated agencies from fair employment laws regarding health insurance benefits. The conference would discriminate against workers who carry out the same jobs as workers at agencies that are not religiously-affiliated.

Is religious liberty impeded when religiously-affiliated employers are asked to abide by anti-discrimination laws?
No. Wisconsin and federal law already exempts religious institutions from the prohibitions on employment discrimination, if the employee in question is a member of the clergy or a religion instructor.

What should the Wisconsin Legislature do?
The ACLU of Wisconsin urges them to adopt this budget provision that lets all employers know, if they are going to provide prescription coverage in their health insurance plans, they must include contraceptive drugs and devices. The budget provision does not need to be amended. Section 3198d of Assembly Substitute Amendment 1 to AB75 codifies contraceptive equity.

What can I do to get contraceptive equity passed?
The ACLU of Wisconsin is a member of the Prevention First Coalition, a broad-base of organizations that support contraceptive equity and other important reproductive health care policies. You can be a part of the coalition and ask your state Senator to support contraceptive equity today.

Find out more about the work the ACLU is doing on protecting the balance between religious liberty and the right of women to have safe, legal and barrier-free access to reproductive health care.

Also check out Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin’s Nicole Safar on Wisconsin Public Radio defending contraceptive equity and women’s right to be free from discrimination in insurance coverage.

Take Action: Restore religious/reproductive liberty balance in HHS regulations today

19 Mar

President Obama has made an important move to protect reproductive freedom. Let’s back him up.

In the waning days of his presidency, George W. Bush moved to undermine the ability of American women to get basic reproductive health services, including birth control and information about abortion. As a result, more than 45,000 ACLU members voiced their opposition.

President Obama has issued a proposal to rescind Bush’s Heath Care Denial Rule. The 30-day public comment period on the Obama proposal ends on April 9. Now, the ACLU needs your help again to mobilize people all across the nation for a dramatic show of support.
Add your name to public comments in support of rescinding the Health Care Denial Rule.

The Obama administration has started the ball rolling by initiating the review. Now, it’s up to us to do our part in ending this totally unnecessary and dangerous rule.

For years, federal law has carefully balanced protections for individual religious liberty and patients’ access to reproductive health care. But the Bush regulations take patients’ health needs — and patients’ rights — totally out of the equation. The ACLU stood up for patients’ rights and brought a federal lawsuit on behalf of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association. Recognizing the dangers posed by this rule, eight state governments also filed suit.

When the Bush administration first proposed this rule, the Department of Health and Human Services received more than 200,000 comments. The overwhelming majority opposed the rule. Now we need to speak just as loudly and clearly to end this rule.

At a time when more and more Americans are either uninsured or struggling with the soaring costs of health care, the federal government should be expanding access to important health services, not interfering in programs that have successfully provided services for years.

Take part in an immediate, bold display of support for rescinding the Health Care Denial Rule.

Thank you for all you are doing to make this a year of progress to renew American freedom. Act now on this very important request.

Louise Melling, Director
ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project

News update: prison rate quadrupled, ban racist mascots, Obama reviews BC denial regs, more

11 Mar

Prison population rate quadrupled
Wisconsin has been doing a great job warehousing people. Monday’s Pew Center on the States report on incarceration shows that our state quadrupled its prison population in the last 25 years. We’re in the top 10 of states with accelerated incarceration rates. Nationally, it’s more like one in 31 people is behind bars. It’s a complicated picture of why so many people are in jail, but the “truth in sentencing” trends in punishing crimes has led to the denial of parole for even non-violent crimes. You can see characters “getting out for good behavior” in old movies, but not in Wisconsin today. In his budget proposal, Governor Doyle suggests that we look at early release for some incarcerated people and put them on probation instead. Early release and probation is cheaper than the warehouse: $3.42 versus $78.95. Now if we can just let people with felony convictions vote when they are released, we might have a better budget for taxpayers and a truer democracy for citizens.

Ban racist mascots
There is some attention being paid to the proposed law to ban racist mascots, including this editorial from the Appleton Post Crescent. Having a law that recognizes why race-based mascots for public schools are inherently an act of government discrimination would be a step in the right direction. The proposed law is fair, gives the community a chance to raise their voice in opposition to the mascot, and gives the Department of Public Instruction the responsibility of having a hearing on it.

Obama reviewing Bush rule on birth control denial
On the reproductive rights front, <a href="”>President Obama is taking a look at what can be done about Bush’s end-of-term passage of the unbalanced Department of Health and Human Services regulations on religious-based refusals of reproductive health care, including birth control prescriptions. The ACLU took a stand against the HHS regs because they gave too much power to health care providers to refuse prescriptions and care, even at the expense of patient safety. In a time of recession, high unemployment rates and chronic numbers of uninsured women, access to birth control and other reproductive health care services should not be compromised. Now that the Obama administration is reviewing the regulations, the ACLU hopes that an effective solution can be found to restore the balance between health care workers’ right to religious liberty and patients’ rights to barrier-free reproductive health care.
Read more about how the ACLU was among the hundreds of thousands of comments about the HHS regs before their passage.

Local events:
Community potluck and film screening on the criminalization of free speech activity at the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities 2008
Saturday, March 28, 7:00 pm, Madison Infoshop, 1019 Williamson St. Get an update on activists jailed for the political organizing of protesters. Suggested donation $5-10.

Prison issues film series (2nd Thursday of every month
Thursday, March 12, 7:00 pm, Rainbow Bookstore, 426 W Gillman St.
Wisconsin Books to Prisoners sponsors the films which will be shown in Wisconsin prisons one week and to the public the following week in order to facilitate a discussion between those inside and outside the system.
This month – “Doing Time: Life Inside the Big House”
“After gaining unprecedented permission from the Justice Department to gain access to the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary, two indie filmmakers spent 5 weeks inside ‘the walls’ and produced a hard-edged and shocking expose of incarceration in the U.S.”

Updates on domestic spying and data mining, abortion service proposal at UW Health under attack

2 Feb

Domestic Spying
So it’s pretty official that the Bush administration spied on all of us with the willing help of telecommunications corporations. This whistleblower and former NSA analyst talks about how, under the auspices of keeping non-threatening people safe and separate from terrorists, journalists were spied on full-time. In the meantime, President Obama has nominated former law professor and noted Bush spying critic David Kris for the Assistant Attorney General position at the National Security Agency.

Wired says the data mining extended to other personal information including credit cards. Under the guise of protection, how are citizens guaranteed that these anti-terrorism dragnets aren’t leaving everyone exposed to hackers and identity thieves?

Reproductive Rights
Internationally, Obama overturned the global gag rule which would end the ban on international aid programs that go to family planning programs that include abortion in their education or service programs.

Women might not get such benefits in Wisconsin if anti-choice legislators and doctors get their way. Protests this weekend in front of local UW Health facilities brought a proposal to offer second trimester abortion services back into the headlines. UW Health is clear on its rules that abortion services would be paid for by insurance (or out of the pockets of service patients) and that doctors and nurses have the right to opt out if they hold their own personal objections. Ultimately it isn’t the right of anti-abortion doctors or legislators to decide for women who need an abortion which is only one of a spectrum of reproductive services that are vital to women’s equality, health care and self-determination.

Did you hear that nonprofit organizations are hoping to get some of the federal stimulus funds? It’s a good idea to put some fuel into organizations that build houses and help with disaster relief. The ACLU, however, never accepts government funding. Our only stimulus comes from the generous support of our donors and members. Don’t forget to renew your membership! Our members are the lifeblood of our organization and we thank all of our many supporters who are keeping Team ACLU going strong. Join today on the ACLU of Wisconsin website.

ACLU continues to defend reproductive freedom one step at a time

22 Jan

Check out Louise Melling’s original post on the Daily Kos.

On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade:

In the wake of President Obama’s inauguration and on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it is tempting to use this occasion to recite a litany of policies we want our new legislators to enact: from ensuring contraceptive equity in Wisconsin, to reversing the Bush administration’s midnight rule allowing a broad range of health care providers to refuse basic reproductive health services, to rescinding the global gag rule that withholds international aid from family planning services.

While these policy changes are important, they all will remain vulnerable to the ebb and flow of politics if we do not also do our part to change the public conversation about abortion. Reproductive freedom is essential to ensuring equality: we each must be free to make profoundly personal decisions about our reproductive lives without unwarranted government intrusion. As with all freedoms, there are limits. But a government that respects the personal integrity of its people both interferes in these essentially private decisions as little as possible and helps ensure that everyone has the opportunity to make these decisions responsibly.

We can continue with the politics of abortion we have known for a generation, one that has exploited ambivalence and fear for political gain. Or we can learn from this past year and take this moment of opportunity and hope to start a new conversation, one that begins with the understanding that both the decision to have a child and the decision to have an abortion come from a place of profound respect for the value of life and a strong commitment to ensuring a better life for all.

Another step toward equality in Wisconsin is to encourage our legislators to ensure contraceptive equity. Judges have ruled on the need for insurance companies to cover prescription contraceptives and outpatient services so as not to discriminate on the basis of gender. Writing contraceptive equity into law is fundamental to any efforts to reform health care, protect workers and stand up for gender equality.

– Chris Ahmuty, Executive Director, ACLU of Wisconsin
– Louise Melling, Director, national ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project

Green Bay alderwoman stands up by sitting down, privacy rights versus free info, virginity pledges don’t work and more

9 Jan

Civil liberties news in review…

Free Speech
Recently there was a little controversy regarding a Green Bay city council alderwoman who did not give a patriotic vets organization a standing ovation when a flag plaque was donated to the city. The essence of the debate was that Alderwoman Jeffreys questioned the inclusion of Columbus Day on the plaque and did not stand to show her disapproval. The council president Wery is demanding a public apology and is suggesting censure while Alderwoman Jeffreys is asserting her free speech rights.

This is an interesting article on the issue of background checks and licensed medical professionals. The Wisconsin State Journal was requesting information from the state to do background checks and ran into some major hurdles and privacy constraints. The end of the article points to a law passed in 2000 where Senator Erpenbach added an amendment in order “to cut down on the solicitations (medical professionals) got (and) make it difficult for companies to profit from this information.” The restriction then made it more difficult for the WSJ journalists to seek background information about doctors. This is one more example of the tension between the public’s right to know (is my doctor a crook?) and the privacy rights of individuals (can companies get a way with abusing public, governmental records for profit?).

Reproductive Rights
The conservative Christian Alliance Defense Fund and other anti-abortion groups have dusted up a controversy about the new proposed plan for UW Health’s Madison Surgery Center to start offering abortion services, even up to the second trimester (otherwise unavailable statewide). The ADF is alleging that the plan will violate UW Health staff’s religious right to refuse to participate in medical practices they don’t agree with, and that state funds would be used for abortion services. The UW Health has said that their policy on allowing staff the right to appropriately refuse is clear and fair, and that abortion services would only be paid for by insurance or out-of-pocket payments. The big picture goes beyond the personal, health or economic reasons women need abortion services. With the Bush administration’s last-minute push to change federal Department of Health and Human Services’ rules regarding refusal rights, the civil liberties implications have been put out of balance. Now medical professionals have greater power to dictate the limitations of women’s reproductive options. The Obama administration needs to roll back the unbalanced new rules and the state of Wisconsin needs to pass real legislation that draws a bright line between women’s right to reproductive freedom and the responsibility of medical service providers to have fair policies for both their staff and their patients. See the articles in the Cap Times and in the Wisconsin State Journal. Read more on where the ACLU stands on the balance of reproductive rights and religious liberty.

And did you see this article in the Washington Post about a new study that shows that teens who take “virginity pledges” though programs that focus on abstinence until marriage are just as likely to have sex as teens who don’t? And the study furthermore shows that those teens who don’t take virginity pledges are more likely to use contraception and safer sex practices. The study from Johns Hopkins, which appears in this month’s Journal of Pediatrics, is different because the teens who are compared share similar values, whereas previous studies did not. This lends more evidence to the inadequacy and even legitimate public health concerns with abstinence-only programs. Kudos to Wisconsin Governor Doyle for continuing to refuse federal funds for abstinence-only curricula: even when facing a budget deficit, abstinence-only programs do more harm than good. Read more on why comprehensive sex education is better for students and for our community.

New fed rules attack birth control, disrupt balance of provider/patient rights

19 Dec

Well, our worst fears came true. The Bush administration today released the long-awaited health care denial rule. You know, the one that more than 200,000 women’s health supporters sent letters to the administration about asking it to stop the attack on reproductive health care?

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised after nearly eight years of an administration that has relentlessly and purposefully interfered with access to basic reproductive health care services, including access to abortion, birth control, and quality sexuality education. But one would have thought that the public outcry against the proposed rule would have made them at least soften the blow. It didn’t.

We feared that the rule would threaten access to birth control. It does. We feared that the rule would put the objections of individuals and institutions over the health care needs of patients. It does.

For years, federal law has carefully balanced protections for individual religious liberty and patients’ access to reproductive health care. The Bush rule flies in the face of this balance and takes patients’ health needs out of the equation. The rule expressly permits health care workers to refuse to provide complete and accurate information and counseling to women who seek services. At the same time, it fails to require refusing providers to either notify their employers or their patients of their objections to providing care. The result: women will have no idea if someone they rely on to put their health needs first is giving them all the information they need to make thoughtful decisions about their own care.

The silver lining in all of this is that the clock is ticking and come January we will have a new president and a new Congress. It’s time to cash in on campaign promises and ask the new folks in town to restore the balance and ensure that women can get the reproductive health care they need.

– Louise Melling & Vania Leveille, from the national ACLU Blog of Rights

Also, check out this NPR report on the midnight HHS regs – it describes the motion of disapproval and Congressional Review Act needed to roll back the discriminatory new rules.