News Releases

WASHINGTON, DC—Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA) today met with Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Michael O. Leavitt to underscore their serious concerns about a proposed HHS regulation that would undermine women’s health.  The proposed HHS rule would require any health care entity that receives federal financing to certify in writing that none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable.  During the meeting, Senators Clinton and Murray pressed Secretary Leavitt on how the vague language in the rule would enable providers to deny access to contraception and questioned Secretary Leavitt on what HHS will do to protect access to critical healthcare and family planning services.  The proposed rule is currently in a 30 day public comment period, which expires on Thursday, September 25.

“Secretary Leavitt and I had a very frank conversation about how this rule could create a slippery slope leading to patients being denied access to contraception and other important information or care. I am deeply concerned that this rule as currently written would undermine patient care.  I urged Secretary Leavitt to ensure explicit protection of patient’s rights to have full access to healthcare, and he assured me he would take these concerns into consideration.  I will be watching closely to see how HHS responds and, with the public comment period coming to a close, everyone who cares about women having access to the healthcare they need must make their voices heard,” said Senator Clinton. 

“While I appreciate the Secretary sitting down with us today, we received no guarantee that women’s access to contraceptives will be protected if these rules move forward.  I hope Secretary Leavitt takes what we had to say seriously and truly looks at the multitude of opinions on this issue,” Senator Murray said.  “Senator Clinton and I have held this Administration’s feet to the fire on women’s health in the past and we’re prepared to do it again.  We want to see patient protection and women’s access to care given value in this process.” 

Senators Clinton and Murray have led the effort to block HHS from implementing this new rule.  On July 16, the Senators sent a letter urging Leavitt to drop the proposed rule.  A week later on July 22, they led a group of 28 Senators in sending yet another letter to the Secretary.  Secretary Leavitt still has not responded to either correspondence.  Following comments by Secretary Leavitt posted on his personal blog, Senators Clinton and Murray on August 8 called for this meeting.

The senators have worked in the past to stop efforts by the Bush Administration to put in place ideological barriers to women’s health.  They successfully led the fight to secure an administration decision on the over-the-counter sale of Plan B emergency contraception after more than three years of Administration delay.