July 17, 2008
The Bush administration is its own expert on reproduction, economy
I don’t write much (really, at all) on policy issues…there are so many blogs and organizations that do it much better than I ever could. But I wrote this piece for The Reaction, where I co-blog (see my sidebar), so I thought I’d post it here too even though it’s not relevant to the “theme” of my blog. Also, be sure to check out The Reaction, for smart commentary on U.S. politics and current events, with a smattering of global issues as well, and of course, I cross-post many of my feminist cultural studies pieces there too.
According to its report released Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services is seeking to change the definition of “abortion” used to determine which services can be provided or referred at a facility receiving federal funds. As RH Reality Check reports, there are two commonly used understandings of when a pregnancy begins: conception (fertilization of the egg by the sperm) and implantation (of the fertilized egg into the uterine lining).
The report states:
A 2001 Zogby International American Values poll revealed that 49% of Americans believe that human life begins at conception […] 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.”
The HHS report is suggesting that the definition of pregnancy be changed from the definition established by the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to one defined by…I’m not quite sure. RH Reality Check suggests that this change is being determined by polling data, but unless some of the sample said they didn’t know, or they have some creative ideas about when pregnancy begins, 49% is not a majority. In any case, HHS is proposing that we change the definition of pregnancy from what has been established by medical bodies of experts to another definition established by…the Bush administration.
This new definition is highly problematic. Pregnancy would now be defined as occurring upon fertilization, and with no test for fertilization, women who utilize federally-funded health facilities can be turned away for contraceptive services on a whim. And as feministingnotes, the women who will be the most affected are low-income and uninsured women. Not to mention that claims that certain contraceptives prevent implantation after fertilization are scientifically unproven. From RH Reality Check:
There is no scientific evidence that hormonal methods of birth control can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. This argument is the basis upon which the religious right hopes to include the 40% of the birth control methods Americans use, such as the pill, the patch, the shot, the ring, the IUD, and emergency contraception, under the classification “abortion.”
What happens then is that the decision of whether or not something counts as an abortifacient is up to the individual…doctor or nurse (of courseit’s not up to the individual woman!). And since the proposal also includes mandating that doctors and nurses who are “conscientious objectors” not be “discriminated” against in hiring practices by facilities receiving federal funds, we have a recipe for disaster for women’s reproductive rights.
So we have an HHS report that refutes the definition of pregnancy made by medical experts, uses unscientifically proven claims about how contraception functions vis-a-visfertilization and implantation in order to redefine the contraceptive methods that 40% of women use as abortifacients, and enables federally-funded medical facilities to deny the most economically vulnerable women basic contraceptive services. And this from the “family values” administration who seems to loathe single women receiving social welfare, considering their perspective on the Temporary Assistance to Needy Familiesprogram.
This also comes from our President who chastises reporters for using the term “recession” in discussing the state of our economy, since reporters aren’t economic “experts.” As we see here, what the experts say doesn’t mean all that much to Bush when it comes to reproductive rights and pandering to the religious right’s agenda.
(Cross-posted to The Reaction)