Breaking with Bush on health care, Obama wants to give more power back to the patients on whether health care providers should provide controversial services. The administration revoked the Bush-era "Provider Conscience" rule that created more regulations to prevent those who refuse to hire doctors and nurses opposed to abortion rights from receiving federal funds. The move was applauded by abortion rights advocacy groups, who say the limits restricted patients' rights.
Memos on Harsh Interrogation Techniques
In April, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released legal memos detailing the authorization and legalization of harsh interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, on detainees under U.S. custody. The documents show that Jay Bybee, a top former DOJ lawyer, signed off on a legal opinion authorizing waterboarding, an interrogation technique which simulates drowning, on three detainees -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri -- in 2002 and 2003. The release of the memos -- and two Senate reports showing that high-level officials were involved in approving such techniques, considered torture by some -- sparked a heated debate on Capitol Hill. Democrats say Bush officials who were involved should be held accountable and that a series of hearings will be held to investigate the issue. Some Republicans strongly opposed the release of the memos and said the administration should look forward, not backward. The president has indicated he does not believe that those who were simply following orders given to them by senior officials should be prosecuted. However, he left the door open for possible charges against high-level officials. Attorney General Eric Holder echoed the same sentiment, saying that while he "will not permit the criminalization of policy differences," he is responsible as attorney general to enforce the law.
No More 'War on Terror'
For President Obama, words do matter. The administration will no longer be employing the phrases "war on terror" and "enemy combatants," words that defined the Bush administration's foreign policy after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The announcement that the term "war on terror" won't be used was made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just days before President Obama embarked on his first overseas trip to Europe as U.S. president. "The administration has stopped using the phrase and I think that speaks for itself," Clinton said at an international conference on Afghanistan in Amsterdam.
The retiring of the term "enemy combatant" also signals a deliberate shift in policy from the previous administration. "As we work toward developing a new policy to govern detainees, it is essential that we operate in a manner that strengthens our national security, is consistent with our values, and is governed by law," Holder said in a statement in March. "The change we've made today meets each of those standards and will make our nation stronger."
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