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  States, Medical Groups Oppose Abortion RuleSeptember 25, 1998 20:32 Several medical associations and 13 state attorneys general voiced their opposition Wednesday to a proposed federal rule that they fear would open the door for hospitals and physicians to deny access to contraception.

In late August, the Bush administration proposed stronger job protections for doctors and other health care workers who refuse to participate in abortions because of religious or moral objections. Abortion foes called it a victory, but abortion rights supporters said they feared the rule could stretch the definition of abortion to include birth control.

The public comment period for the proposed rule ends Thursday. As the deadline nears, opponents have orchestrated a highly public call for the administration to rescind the rule. While the regulation states that it would not limit access to health care, groups such as the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics disagreed.

They said doctors and nurses are already not required to perform abortions or sterilizations. They can refuse to do so. But each health care professional is ethically bound to inform patients about all of their treatment options. If health care professionals cannot or will not provide a certain service, they are ethically obligated to refer patients in a timely manner to someone who can.

"Implementation of this regulation would effectively allow health care providers' personal beliefs to override patients' right to full disclosure of accurate information and available health care resources," the medical associations wrote.