I Have to Learn to Spell “Sebelius”

I just realized I’ve been misspelling the name of Obama’s apparent new pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Spelling it with an “i” instead of an “e” as the second letter. Well, I’ve got to get it right now, because it looks like I’ll be referring to her quite a bit. She’ll have one of the largest portfolios of any cabinet member, and certainly one of the most important.

Her appointment comes as no surprise, but it’s good news. Who will be the White House health czar then is the question? Maybe Obama won’t appoint one after all, since that was perhaps a position cobbled up to give Daschle extra status in the pursuit of universal health care. Pride goeth before a destruction…

I first met Sebelius (the first daughter of a Governor–John Gilligan, Ohio, 1971-197–in U.S. history to be elected to that same position) early in her her first term as governor. She attended a Planned Parenthood event in Kansas City where I was speaking. As it happens, while I was in Kansas for that visit, I was simultaneously juggling legal strategy and national media in the wake of George Bush’s signing of the federal abortion ban earlier that day. Sweet quirk of fate this, as RHRealityCheck reports on Sebelius’s strong support for reproductive health in “She’s Not in Kansas Any More“. Ah, what a difference a vote makes.

In the Obama ideal mold, Sebelius is noted for bipartisanship. She had to be effectively bipartisan in her reliably Republican state if she wanted to get anything accomplished.

I’m heartened that Obama is now talking about health care more like Hillary Clinton did during the campaign than like his own incremental approach that strained to avoid antagonizing anyone but would not have covered everyone. Obama’s proposed spending plan sets aside a $634 billion dollar reserve fund and charges Congress with the task of reforming the health care system.

I’ve now written “Sebelius” six times and still try to type in an “i” instead of “e”. I’ll keep practicing because I think I’ll be writing it numerous times over the next few years. Though it appears she won’t have that health czar title, if confirmed, she’ll certainly play a pivotal role in the efforts to gain health coverage for the 46 million uninsured Americans.

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.