Monday, August 04, 2008

The march to Gilead

From Common Wealth by Jeffrey Sachs

Since the begginning of this decade, population policy as been hijacked by shortsighted ideology. Leaders of the U.S. religious right have called for ending U.S. support for family planning. While that has not happened entirely, the Bush administration has slashed aid to the U.N. Population Fund and recommended large cuts in direct U.S. funding of family planning services. It's hard to think of a single more misguided policy; it runs directly against American interests in the reduction of conflict and terror, as well as against the support of economic development and environmental sustainability more generally.
Not to mention it is an effort by a patriarchal authoritarian faction to reduce the reproductive rights of women; which itself tends to be part of a larger pattern of restricting the rights of women in general. (See The Fundamentals of Extremism for an extended discussion of the subject.)

One of the things about the Bush administration's approach to international family planning that has most bothered me is that President Bush has abused the power of the Executive office in order to promote his personal religious beliefs in an effort to restrict and prohibit services that are legal in America.

Of course, we know that such an experiment on fundamental rights abroad is indicative of the religious right's desire to experiment on those same rights at home. And here is the latest example.

This morning, I heard an astonishing interview on WNYC that discussed a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) draft document that was just leaked. This document proposes to redefine nearly all forms of birth control, especially birth control pills, as a form of abortion and allows any federal grant recipient to obstruct a woman's access to contraception [PDF]. Considering that roughly half of all American women use birth control pills, I think this is a shocking proposal that, if enacted, will change modern American society as we know it.


Since it is impossible to determine whether an egg has been fertilized, this means that a woman can never prove that she is not pregnant. As a result, it will be legal to block women's access to a tremendous variety of health services, treatments and medications under the guise that they "might possibly cause abortion." Not only that, but this will shut down access to family planning, will remove contraceptive equity from health insurance plans, and will allow pharmacists to refuse to fill women's birth control prescriptions. Further, this also blocks rape survivors from being provided with emergency contraception to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

This HHS proposal will penalize the more than 500,000 medical institutions that rely on federal medicaid funds, and even entire states, if even one woman is provided with birth control pills or access to medical treatments, such as treatment for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, that might potentially cause "abortion" to occur.

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