HHS Attempts to Define Contraception as Abortion, Fertilized Egg as Human Being
I’ve been dealing with some sick kitty issues this week, so haven’t had time to properly address a proposed rule for the Department of Health and Human Services that addresses “conscience” clauses which allow healthcare providers to refuse services and information based on their personal religious or moral beliefs. Here’s the “quick” overview, with links to additional explanatory posts on the topic at the end.
The proposed rule explains how recipients of HHS funds already cannot discriminate (such as in hiring practices) against employees “who participate in health service programs or research activities funded in whole or part by the Department who refuse to perform certain medical services, including sterilization, abortion, or research activities.”
What’s new in the proposed rule is that it essentially says, because some people think that “life” begins when sperm and egg meet, and so consider contraception to be abortion, even though the medical & scientific community does not support or agree with that view, we’re going to accept what people “believe” as a medical definition. It would allow contraception to be defined as abortion for these purposes. It says:
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).17 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.
[so on and so forth, equating a couple of medical dictionaries with the opinions of the American Medical Association and the British Medical Association]
The Department proposes to define abortion as “any of the various procedures—including the prescription 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.”
Did you catch that? “a human being after it has implanted…” “life of a human being…whether before or after implantation” No reliance on implantation to define a pregnancy, even though “pregnancy” cannot be detected prior to implantation and a great percentage of fertilized eggs fail to implant, medically meaning that the woman was. not. pregnant. Implication that a fertilized egg is a “human being,” regardless of whether it ever would/could implant. So the Department of Health and Human Services is suggesting that every time a woman menstruates – oops, there might be a human being in there, ladies. This would also mean that workers at HHS-funded clinics could refuse to offer Plan B or other oral contraceptions, given the belief in the possibility that these drugs might (but are not scientifically proven to) occasionally interfere with implantation. They could also presumably refuse to offer IUDs. Recipients of HHS funds also could not refuse to hire individuals who refused to provide these healthcare services.
“Recipients” is pretty broad – the proposed rule references any:
“organization receiving financial assistance directly from the Department awarding agency to carry out a project or program. The term includes public and private institutions of higher education, public and private hospitals, commercial organizations, and other quasi-public and private nonprofit organizations such as, but not limited to, community action agencies, research institutes, educational associations, and health centers. The term may include foreign or international organizations (such as agencies of the United Nations) which are recipients, subrecipients, or contractors or subcontractors of recipients or subrecipients at the discretion of the Department awarding agency.”
It looks like this could include places like community health clinics, and Planned Parenthood.
Some less rushed posts on the issue (let me know if I’m missing any good ones):
- HHS Moves to Define Contraception as Abortion – Christina Page at RHRealityCheck
- War on Contraception and Science Going Strong – Susan Wood at RHRealityCheck
- Bush’s Proposal Redefining Contraception Crashes Pelosi Web Site – Scott Swenson at RHRealityCheck
- Even more from RHRealityCheck (they’ve been on top of this!)
- Going To the Slammer with Your IUD – Caryl Rivers at The Huffington Post
- Pelosi, Clinton, Murray Respond to Potential Federal Rule That Could Limit Birth Control Access – National Partnership for Women and Families
- Contraception now equals abortion? – My Beautiful Wickedness
- Head exploding quietly… – Mom’s Tinfoil Hat, who says, “There are a lot of very pressing issues that the HHS could be dealing with right now. If you want a list, check out Healthy People 2010. I don’t see ‘allowing more fringe religious activists to deny health care to the underserved’ on any of their lists of recommendations.
I should also note that HHS head Mike Leavitt has a blog, but you won’t see information on this on there, just like it didn’t mention it when he went after ACOG on regarding their statement on conscientious refusal (and completely got the facts wrong).