Within hours of taking the Oath of Office, President Barack Obama ordered all federal agencies to suspend all of Bush's eleventh-hour rules changes, pending a full review. This means that Bush's notorious "conscience clause" rules are on hold until Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services can review them. That would be Tom Daschle. It's highly unlikely that Daschle would sign off on these rules, which would give government healthcare workers unprecedented latitude to refuse reproductive health services on religious grounds.This isn't just an abstract issue. A nurse in New Mexico is currently being sued for removing a patient's IUD without her permission and refusing to put it back in because the nurse opposed IUDs on religious grounds, Jodi Jacobsen reports in RH Reality.Obama is also planning to repeal the Global Gag Rule, which disqualifies international organizations from receiving any federal funding if they provide abortions or even inform women that abortion is an option. The flipping of the Global Gag Rule is becoming something of presidential tradition, Steve Benen notes in the Washington Monthly: Bill Clinton reversed it shortly after he took office and George W. Bush wasted no time in bringing it back when his turn came.However, the new president is not expected to overturn the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research by executive order. Instead, Obama wants Congress to pass a law lifting the ban. Obama has said that he'd rather let Congress express its overwhelming bipartisan consensus in favor of stem cell research by passing a law, as opposed to overturning the ban by fiat.Another controversial target for federal funds is needle exchange for intravenous drug users. Obama has said that he supports federal funding for needle exchange, but he sent a mixed message when he chose a Drug Czar who is opposed to the idea. In AlterNet, Alan Clear urges the president to include needle exchange as part of his drug control policy.Looking at the bigger picture, Ezra Klein sits down with two policy experts to discuss the best road to universal healthcare for In These Times. On Air America, Thom Hartmann discusses the Campaign for America's Future's plan for universal healthcare (audio).Healthcare reform can't come soon enough for small business owners struggling to afford skyrocketing healthcare costs for their employees. Public News Service reports on the plight of small business owners in Oregon and Colorado.Now that the inauguration is over, the real work is at hand. Obama has signaled that he will make healthcare reform a high priority in his administration. It remains to be seen whether his focus on the economic crisis will dilute his efforts in the healthcare arena. One hopes that these two projects will compliment one another and not conflict.This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care. Visit Healthcare.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy. And for the best progressive reporting on the ECONOMY, and IMMIGRATION, check out, Immigration.NewsLadder.net and Economy.NewsLadder.net.This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.
Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.