The Bush administration may be looking to strike a blow for religious freedom. They are reportedly looking into requiring all recipients of federal aid to certify that they will not refuse to hire nurses and other providers who object to abortion and even certain types of birth control, says the Wall Street Journal.

The proposal reportedly expresses concern about state laws that require hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims who request it.

This could have a huge impact, especially on Catholic run hospitals. Remember, Connecticut’s Catholic bishops agreed under duress to administer emergency contraception to all rape victims at Catholic hospitals as a new state law requiring them to do so took effect.

It was either give out Plan B or close up shop. The bishops had argued that lawmakers were forcing medical personnel to violate their religious beliefs and perform chemical abortions by providing emergency contraception, sold as Plan B, to women who are ovulating.

The Catholic bishops were considering legal action, claiming the new law infringed on their state and federal constitutional rights. And it seems the Bush administration might agree with them. This would be a welcome bit of good news.

The key to the proposal if a subtle shift in language where it defines abortion as follows:

“any of the various procedures — including the prescription, dispensing and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action — that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation.”

That’s a big addition as, from what I understand, the government always followed the ridiculous assertion that a woman wasn’t pregnant until implantation.

The rule under consideration by the Bush administration could broaden employment rules that now cover abortion to include emergency contraception.

Federal employment law already prohibits firing workers for refusing to perform abortions. But the proposal could extend those rules to include emergency contraception, also known as the “morning-after pill,” which is sold under the brand name Plan B. If taken within 72 hours of sex, the drug reduces the risk of implantation. Some pharmacists have bravely refused to dispense the drug on moral grounds that this is simply an early abortion. This has touched off legal fights in many states.

The HHS is considering the document and says only that it is under consideration. Let’s hope the Bush administration follows through on this.