Contraception Equals Abortion Under Dept. of Health & Human Services Proposed Rule

Friday, July 18, 2008 at 08:54 PM

In keeping with the religious right's concept of "The birth, the whole birth, and nothing but the birth," the pro-birth forces are out in force, singing the praises of the Department of Health and Human Services proposed rule to define various methods of contraception as "abortion."

That definition would, in turn, allow doctors & medical professionals the right to refuse to supply their patients with these contraceptive forms. Procedurally, the rule targets “discrimination” against medical care providers who object to abortion and refuse to provide that procedure. The interesting and underhanded means by which the proposed rule operates: doctors, hospitals, etc. have to sign a certification that they will not discriminate against medical care providers who decline to provide abortion. Violation of this agreement can result in defunding.

And—this is where the religious right salivates—the proposed rule defines “abortion” so broadly that it includes birth control pills and IUDs. So your local rabid Christian doctor or nurse can simply decline to provide birth control devices and any action taken against them for declining to do so would violate the new rule.

The fact that this proposed rule was distributed among the HHS staff, with full knowledge that it would be leaked to the press, strikes me as the classic attempt to measure the public reaction before actually issuing such a rule. If people passively ignore this proposal, it will become a rule. If there’s a big enough backlash against it, it will die on the vine.

And think about how crazy this new rule would be in operation. If a clinic devoted to women’s reproductive rights accepts federal aid and part of its services include dispensing contraceptives, they could not refuse to hire medical staff that would refuse to take part in its basic services. Brilliant.

And the reaction of HHS? A spokesperson simply says that they ““don’t normally comment on whether we are considering changes in regulations.”

If this proposal becomes the rule, we'll be about half way back to the days when you could get arrested for distributing contraceptives to women.