This morning, I heard an astonishing interview on WNYC that discussed a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) draft document that was just leaked. This document proposes to redefine nearly all forms of birth control, especially birth control pills, as a form of abortion and allows any federal grant recipient to obstruct a woman’s access to contraception [PDF]. Considering that roughly half of all American women use birth control pills, I think this is a shocking proposal that, if enacted, will change modern American society as we know it.
Currently, the federal government accepts the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ definition of pregnancy as beginning at implantation. However, the HHS proposes to reject that definition — provided by medical experts — and to change the federal definition of pregancy to conform with public polling data, as stated in the “Definitions” section of the proposal;
Abortion: An abortion is the termination of a pregnancy. There are two commonly held views on the question of when a pregnancy begins. Some consider a pregnancy to begin at conception (that is, the fertilization of the egg by the sperm), while others consider it to begin with implantation (when the embryo implants in the lining of the uterus). A 2001 Zogby International American Values poll revealed that 49% of Americans believe that human life begins at conception. Presumably many who hold this belief think that any action that destroys human life after conception is the termination of a pregnancy, and so would be included in their definition of the term “abortion.” Those who believe pregnancy begins at implantation believe the term “abortion” only includes the destruction of a human being after it has implanted in the lining of the uterus.
And then they propose;
[T]he Department proposes to define abortion as “any of the various procedures – including the prescription 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.”
I find it astonishing that the federal government could regulate health care and reproductive choices based on a popularity contest!
Since it is impossible to determine whether an egg has been fertilized, this means that a woman can never prove that she is not pregnant. As a result, it will be legal to block women’s access to a tremendous variety of health services, treatments and medications under the guise that they “might possibly cause abortion.” Not only that, but this will shut down access to family planning, will remove contraceptive equity from health insurance plans, and will allow pharmacists to refuse to fill women’s birth control prescriptions. Further, this also blocks rape survivors from being provided with emergency contraception to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
This HHS proposal will penalize the more than 500,000 medical institutions that rely on federal medicaid funds, and even entire states, if even one woman is provided with birth control pills or access to medical treatments, such as treatment for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, that might potentially cause “abortion” to occur.
So the personal ideology, regardless of how nutty or punitive it is, of a small vocal minority of people has greater social value than the life of any individual woman who is seeking essential medical care, whether it is contraceptives or it is treatment for a life-threatening illness that has nothing to do with pregnancy. Need I point out that medical professionals have a responsibility to their patients, and if they are unable to meet those responsibilities, they shouldn’t take the job.
So this is becoming a country where personal freedoms are being destroyed so as to impose a small group’s religious beliefs on the rest of society, transforming American into a repressive religious regime, and robbing millions of women of control over their own bodies. Oh, but why stop there? Why not outlaw all medical care? After all, if everything is “god’s will” anyway, then no one has any right whatsoever to prevent their deaths or to alleviate their suffering, even if their suffering or death is preventable through medical intervention.
I wonder how long it will be before it is illegal for a woman not to be pregnant?