In a spectacular act of complicity with the religious right, the Department of Health and Human Services Monday [July 14, 2008] released a proposal that allows any federal grant recipient to obstruct a woman’s access to contraception. In order to do this, the Department is attempting to redefine many forms of contraception, the birth control 40% of Americans use, as abortion. Doing so protects extremists under the Weldon and Church amendments. Those laws prohibit federal grant recipients from requiring employees to help provide or refer for abortion services. The “Definitions” section of the HHS proposal states:
- 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.
The proposal continues,
- Both definitions of pregnancy inform medical practice. Some medical authorities, like the American Medical Association and the British Medical Association, have defined the term “established pregnancy” as occurring after implantation.
Other medical authorities present different definitions. Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, for example, defines pregnancy as “[the] state of a female after conception and until the termination of the gestation.” Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defines pregnancy, in relevant part, as “the condition of having a developing embryo or fetus in the body, after union of an oocyte and spermatozoon.”
Up until now, the federal government followed the definition of pregnancy accepted by the American Medical Association and our nation’s pregnancy experts, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which is: pregnancy begins at implantation. With this proposal, however, HHS is dismissing medical experts and opting instead to accept a definition of pregnancy based on polling data. It now claims that pregnancy begins at some biologically unknowable moment (there’s no test to determine if a woman’s egg has been fertilized). Under these new standards there would be no way for a woman to prove she’s not pregnant. Thus, any woman could be denied contraception under HHS’ new science.
Until 1918, contraceptive devices were illegal in the United States … while they existed, they were often sold as “feminine hygiene” products …
It’s one thing for the Bush Administration to try to outlaw abortion, which is a touchy subject no matter how you look at it.
My personal belief? It’s possible to be both pro-choice and pro-life at the same time … I would prefer that people choose to prevent unwanted pregnancies by whatever means works best for them. If a woman does become pregnant, I would prefer that she choose an option other than abortion.
However, a woman’s decision whether or not to have an abortion is should be made by her, in concert with her doctor, her partner, and her conscience. It is not society’s place to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body.
Personally, I abhor the concept of abortion. However, I will NEVER tell a woman that she does not have the right to choose that option; not even my own partner/lover/girlfriend/wife, and I will certainly never support any candidate for political office that wants to restrict a woman’s right to choose.
But now, by trying to change the definitions, the Bush Administration is even trying to remove (or severely limit) a woman’s ability to prevent an unwanted pregnancy; and take us back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries in terms of reproductive rights and health.
Then go sign the petitions, sponsored by MoveOn.org.