Murphy Pushes Legislation To Stop Bush “Refusal Clause”


January 21, 2009

On Thursday, January 15, 2009 Representative Chris Murphy (CT-5) united with a group of colleagues to introduce the Protecting Patient and Health Care Act of 2009. The bill would stop the "Refusal Clause”, which the Bush Administration referred to as the "Conscience Rule”, when it was finalized in late December.

The "Refusal Clause” was set to take effect on Sunday, January 18, 2009. It allows health care workers to refuse to provide medical care that they have moral or religious objections to. Any state or local government, hospital, clinic, doctor’s office, or other institution that breaks this rule will risk losing federal funding. This will affect access to vital health services, such as: birth control, abortion, and fertilization treatments. The most dangerous part of the rule is that it allows whole hospitals and health plans to refuse services, when individual doctors are willing to perform them.

"President Bush is using his last hours in office to undo basic health care rights for patients. As more and more Americans are losing access to health care in this tough economy, we should be opening doors to care, not closing them. His actions are unconscionable,” said Murphy.

Murphy noted that the Bush Administration’s rule will be especially important in Connecticut, where state legislators fought hard to pass the "Compassionate Care for Rape Victims Act of 2007”. This 2007 Connecticut bill makes sure that rape victims have access to emergency contraception. Hospitals that object to it can bring in an independent provider to supply the contraceptive.

Murphy has been contesting the "Refusal Clause” since it was first proposed. In September, he was one of 109 Congressional Members to sign a letter to Mike Leavitt, the Secretary of Health and Human Services. According to the Bush Administration, the clause would cost $44 million.

"With President-Elect Obama taking office in just a few days, we need to do everything we can to stop this rule from going into effect. He and the new Congress were elected to make changes to our national health care system to broaden access to coverage, and this rule is a big step back in that effort. I look forward to working with his team to use the means necessary to stop this from happening,” said Murphy.