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THE FIRST 100 DAYS: There May Be a New President But the Culture Wars Are Far From Over

By Peter RoffConservative Commentator/Former Senior Political Writer, United Press International

Barack Obama's election may have tamped down the so-called "culture war" that was a hallmark of the Bush presidency but it has not ended it.

Up to now, the pro-abortion rights lobby has carefully couched its activities in the language of personal choice. "The decision to have an abortion," they say, "is a matter of personal conscience, between a woman and her doctor."
A new federal rule promulgated by the Bush administration and set to go into effect on January 20 is, in essence, a guarantee for doctors and other health care workers that they shall not have to perform or participate in abortions if they have a personal moral or religious objection to the practice.

It a new wrinkle in America's abortion debate, one of the cornerstones of the aforementioned "culture war." Up to now, the pro-abortion rights lobby has carefully couched its activities in the language of personal choice. "The decision to have an abortion," they say, "is a matter of personal conscience, between a woman and her doctor."

The rule seeks to clarify, according to the Bush-era Department of Health and Human Services that "non- discrimination protections apply to institutional health care providers as well as to individual employees working for recipients of certain funds" from HHS. It also requires those receiving federal fund to certify their compliance with "provider conscience rights" and opens up a channel within the Department to receive complaints if the new rule is being violated.

At stake are millions of dollars in federal public health money that states and local governments who refuse to abide by the new rule could lose.

Last Thursday seven states -- led by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat -- filed suit in a Hartford, Ct., court seeking to enjoin the rule from going into effect. The plaintiffs claim the new rule would supersede state laws guaranteeing a woman's access to birth control, emergency contraception and abortion.

Setting aside the issue of being "for" or "against" abortion rights, the state's lawsuit creates a new twist on the old "Your right to swing your hand wherever you want stops at the end of my nose" discussion. One can argue that forcing doctors and nurses to perform or participate in abortions over their personal moral or religious objections is an offense against the same "right of personal choice" under which abortion itself is justified.

Whether or not Blumenthal and the states he is acting for ultimately prevail, the lawsuit is a sure indication that the culture war will continue.

Peter Roff is a senior fellow at Frontiers of Freedom, a group promoting consumer choice throughout the marketplace.