If Bush Decides Contraception is Abortion, it Must Be True, Right?

Why would anybody be surprised that the Bush administration plans to propose new federal regulations allowing health care providers to run roughshod over established scientific and medical  principles, even when they are doing it with your taxpayer money?

After all, Bush’s first official act after taking office was to issue an executive order reinstating the global gag rule, which prevents international family planning programs receiving U. S. Funding from even uttering the word abortion.  Why would anybody be surprised that an administration willing to breach medical ethics by preventing doctors from giving patients full information about their health care options is also willing in its waning days to go the second mile for its zealous anti-choice base and redefine medical ethics to suit their ideology? Even to redefine important forms of contraception as abortion?

The right has made sexual matters unspeakable while the left and center have made it a central tenet to keep these matters private. No wonder that even the public discussion of reproductive issues so often gets giggles and Bush’s minions get a free ride as they go about their merry way to steamroller science with their ideology.

Here’s some of the text of the proposed regulations, explained by Cristina Page’s excellent analysis on RHRealityCheck:

In a spectacular act of complicity with the religious right, the Department of Health and Human Services Monday 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 “[t]he 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.

“I will do everything in my power to restrict abortions.” George W. Bush said in Oct 22, 1994 when he was running for governor or Texas. No one should be surprised then at this latest assault. He is merely continuing to deliver on his promise.

But do not be confused by what the real agenda is, because it’s not about abortion at all.  If you’re a woman, it’s about you.

More on this and what you can do about it next. Meanwhile, here’s the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association’s action alert with a letter you can send to DHHS Secretary Mike Leavitt.

Update on Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 05:58PM by Registered CommenterGloria Feldt
Update and Action Item from National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association
Congressional Leaders Decry Draft HHS Regulations—and How You Can Take Action
As you know, it became public last week that in its final hours in office, the Bush Administration is considering promulgating regulations that, if implemented, could drastically restrict access to contraceptive services and severely harm women’s health. The draft regulations radically expand the scope and reach of provisions in federal law that give individuals the ability to refuse to provide abortion and sterilization services, re-writing these laws to permit health care facilities and insurance plans to refuse to provide many of the most common forms of birth control.

Last Friday, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), and Representative Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), held a press conference at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, vowing to fight what Senator Clinton called “a gratuitous, unnecessary insult to the women of the United States of America.” Earlier in the week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), also spoke out publicly against the draft regulations, saying that “if the Administration goes through with this draft proposal, it will launch a dangerous assault on women’s health.” These comments from Congressional leaders have not gone unnoticed – when Speaker Pelosi’s statement was linked to on a social networking website, the resulting flow of web traffic crashed the Speaker’s homepage!

Today, a letter signed by more than 100 House members was delivered to President Bush and Michael Leavitt, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, urging them not to proceed with efforts to restrict access to contraceptive services. The letter was circulated by a coalition of pro-choice and pro-life advocates of family planning, including Reps. Nita Lowey, Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.). A similar letter is circulating in the Senate, led by Sens. Clinton and Patty Murray (D-Wash.). NFPRHA continues to work with our allies on the Hill to ensure that the Administration gets the message that Congress will stand up to these efforts to limit access to contraceptive services.

Please write HHS Secretary Leavitt demanding that he halt all efforts to proceed with these draft regulations: send this letter today! And tell your friends and colleagues, as well. Thanks.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Reality Checking Ignorance Only Education

If the excellent website RH Reality Check isn’t on your bookmark or Google Reader list, it should be. Every day it brings me up to date on the good news, bad news, and interesting takes people are talking about concerning the big picture of reproductive health, rights, and justice. Not to mention handy information about things like how to knit a condom amulet, which would be much more useful than the abstinence only (non) sex (non) education that has been promoted by the (non) religious (non) right for the past decade or two.

Today, there’s Scott Swenson’s report on the encouraging trend by states to turn down funding for the now-discredited Federal abstinence only program, which never made any sense. I mean, ignorance has never really been bliss. That’s especially so when silence about sexual health and decision making is exacerbated by inaccurate teaching concerning the consequences of not just saying “no”, while failing to tell young people what “yes” means. Here’s Scott’s summary:

The Associated Press is just out with a major story about how in tough economic times, cash-strapped states are refusing federal tax dollars for abstinence-only programs. The story is one more in a long line of damning pieces of evidence about the failures of abstinence-only programs, the waste of tax dollars they represent, and should be a wake up call to Congress.

AP reporter Kevin Freking writes:

Skeptical states are shoving aside millions of federal dollars for abstinence education, walking away from the program the Bush administration touts for slowing teen sexual activity.

Barely half the states are still in, and two more say they are leaving.

Some $50 million has been budgeted for this year, and financially strapped states might be expected to want their share. But many have doubts that the program does much, if any good, and they’re frustrated by chronic uncertainty that it will even be kept in existence. They also have to chip in state money in order to receive the federal grants.

Iowa Gov. Chet Culver, a Democrat, made his decision to leave based on the congressionally mandated curriculum, which teaches “the social, psychological and health gains of abstaining from sexual activity.” Instructors must teach that sexual activity outside of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects. “It was just too strict,” said Emily Hajek, policy adviser to Culver. “We believe local providers have the knowledge to teach what’s going to be best in those situations, what kind of information will help those young people be safe. You cannot be that prescriptive about how it has to be taught.”

A federal tally shows that participation in the program is down 40 percent over two years, with 28 states still in. Arizona and Iowa have announced their intention to forgo their share of the federal grant at the start of the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. (Read on for the rest of this article and a raft of others on the subject here…)

To connect the personal and the political here in a heartfeldt sort of way, John McCain has consistently supported wasting your tax dollars on the abstinence only programs, and suffice it to say he has a 0% rating on all reproductive health issues. Gong.

Barack Obama is a sponsor of the Prevention First Act that would provide for medically accurate sex education and, according to the questionnaire he answered for RH Reality Check, ” Senator Obama supports comprehensive sex education. He believes that we should not continue to fund abstinence-only programs. Over the last decade, the federal government has spent $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars on “abstinence-only” programs that have not been successful. While abstinence is one approach to reducing unintended pregnancies and STDs, Obama believes we should also support comprehensive and age-appropriate sex education.” Obama pfumfered around when asked the sex education question in one of the early presidential debates, so my guess is he leaves that discussion to Michelle at home, but from a policy perspective he’s a-ok.

So what do we do about it?


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.