The Obama administration has rolled back the "conscience clause" protections for health-care workers that were instituted during the Bush presidency.
The new federal regulations, released on February 18, still protect health-care workers who refuse to be involved in abortions. But the rules do not protect those who refuse to provide contraceptives.
The new regulations will create severe moral dilemmas for health-care workers who believe-- as the Catholic Church teaches-- that the use of contraceptives is gravely wrong. The conflict could be acute in some cases, since the regulations would force health-care workers to dispense contraceptives that function as abortifacients.
Rather than condemning the new rules, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a measured response. Speaking for the bishops' conference, Deirdre McQuade said that the administration's move was "a cause for disappointment, but also offers reasons for hope regarding an emerging consensus in Washington on the need for clear conscience protections for health-care providers." She said that the USCCB would work to expand the "conscience clause" protections.