WASHINGTON, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- The Bush administration has proposed a new rule intended to allow healthcare workers to refuse to deliver medical services that violate their personal faith.
The regulation would authorize the federal government to withhold funding for more than 584,000 medical facilities unless they accommodate the religious preferences of doctors, nurses and others who decline to participate in procedures such as abortion on personal, moral or religious bases, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
"People should not be forced to say or do things they believe are morally wrong," Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said.
Leavitt said the regulation -- which would take effect following a 30-day period for public comment -- would not prevent healthcare facilities from providing any type of service, and that there is "nothing in this rule that would in any way change a patient's right to a legal procedure."
Family planning organizations and abortion rights activists said the regulation could prevent many patients from receiving abortions and family planning services, and could even affect scientific research, the Post said.
The regulation does not include language contained in a draft version that would have established a more restrictive definition of abortion, the report said.