Every day, I take a birth control pill (except during the "off" week). In this way, I am no different from a large number of American women. My daily pill is not an abortion under any recognizable definition of the word, but new regulations under consideration by the Department of Health and Human Services say that it is. Further, people who oppose abortions can deny me my right to medication that has been prescribed to me by a doctor.
Today's New York Times reports:
The proposal defines abortion as follows: “any of the various procedures — including the prescription, dispensing 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.” [emphasis mine]
In plain English, Marilyn Keefe, Director of Reproductive Health Programs at the National Partnership for Women & Families, tells us:
The leaked draft of the regulation would put politics ahead of women’s health by allowing individuals and organizations to redefine accepted, FDA-approved methods of birth control including oral contraceptives, IUDs and injectables as abortifacients. This definition is at odds with widely accepted science, and the government’s own definition, that pregnancy begins with the implantation of a fertilized egg.
The administration is hiding this under language that, according to the Times, that "requires all recipients of aid under federal health programs to certify that they will not refuse to hire nurses and other providers who object to abortion," and that "hospitals, clinics, researchers and medical schools would have to sign “written certifications” as a prerequisite to getting money under any program run by the Department of Health and Human Services." What? Why the urgent need for this law, which craftily defines birth control as an abortion? And what does this mean?
Mary Jane Gallagher, President and CEO, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, explains:
Currently, low-income and uninsured women and men who walk into a government-funded health care facility to receive family planning services do so with the full knowledge and expectation that they will receive access to the full range of contraceptive services. These proposed rules could mean that providers of federally-funded family planning services could no longer guarantee their patients access to contraception, as they would redefine abortion so broadly as to include many methods of contraception, including oral contraception, intrauterine devices and emergency contraception.
She told the New York Times, “We worry that under the proposal, contraceptive services would become less available to low-income and uninsured women.”
It is not just low-income women who will find themselves in trouble if this law passes. (Although, as usual, they will bear the brunt of the effect because they lack other resources and alternatives.) Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, noted that we should not expect Republican candidate John McCain to change course on this disastrous policy:
The regulation would allow health-care corporations or individuals to consider birth control "abortion" and therefore to refuse to provide contraception to women who need it... Sen. McCain has a long record of votes against birth control [voting 22 times against birth control], and Americans can only expect to see these attacks on women's health to continue with McCain in the White House.
It doesn't matter why you take the Pill. Someone has the right to deny you your medicine based on his or her own personal moral code. Freedom of religion? Nah, not when my religion disagrees with the pharmacist's. Right to privacy? Women have no rights when it comes to reproduction. Our uteruses are the nation's uterus, and if we are stupid enough to not buy into a particular frame of religious thinking that not even all religious leaders agree on (see my friends at the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice), then by God, we will be forced to comply, no matter what the cost.
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