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Senators Clinton And Murray Call For Meeting With HHS Secretary On Proposed Rules Affecting Access To Family Planning Services

Aug 08 2008

HHS Secretary Twice Fails to Respond to Senators' Inquiry, Instead Defends Attempt to Limit Women's Healthcare Options on Personal Blog

(Washington, D.C.) – Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA) today requested a meeting with Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael O. Leavitt to discuss proposed draft HHS regulations that would undermine women’s health and hear from him directly how HHS plans to ensure women continue to have access to basic healthcare including contraceptives. 

The Senators underscored that Secretary Leavitt’s recent public comments failed to provide assurances that any HHS regulations would ensure access to these services. Secretary Leavitt has failed to respond to a letter sent from Senators Clinton and Murray almost a month ago detailing serious concerns that the draft proposed HHS rule would undermine access to common forms of birth control, including emergency contraception.  The following week, Senators Clinton and Murray, along with 26 of their Senate colleagues, sent a second plea to Secretary Leavitt to halt these draft regulations, which has also gone unanswered.

“We remain concerned by the regulations’ potential to create barriers for women seeking health care, to jeopardize federal programs that provide family-planning services and to disrupt state laws securing women's access to birth control. Currently, federal law exists to protect a provider’s religious and moral beliefs. Therefore, the purpose of a new rule to this end remains unclear,” Senators Clinton and Murray wrote.  “We remain committed to strongly opposing any proposal that could negatively impact the reproductive health of millions of women.”

The following is the text of their letter to Secretary Leavitt:

August 8, 2008

The Honorable Michael O. Leavitt
Secretary
United States Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We write to you to request a meeting regarding your recent public comments on the draft regulations we wrote to you about nearly a month ago.  You had an opportunity to respond to our letters and give assurances that these regulations would not impact women’s access to basic health care, including contraceptives.  Your publically stated explanation did not give us confidence that the Department of Health and Human Services is drafting a rule that would ensure these services.  It is even more disconcerting to have received no response to either of our letters, the second of which was sent along with twenty-six of our Senate colleagues.

We remain concerned by the regulations’ potential to create barriers for women seeking health care, to jeopardize federal programs that provide family-planning services and to disrupt state laws securing women's access to birth control.  Currently, federal law exists to protect a provider’s religious and moral beliefs.  Therefore, the purpose of a new rule to this end remains unclear.

It is crucial that science not ideology be the basis of any rules released by the Department of Health and Human Services.  These regulations must put women's health and prevention before any other agenda.

It is our hope that you will be able to clarify the ways that the regulations will affect women and their health care providers.

We remain committed to strongly opposing any proposal that could negatively impact the reproductive health of millions of women.

Sincerely,

Patty Murray
United States Senator


Hillary Rodham Clinton
United States Senator