By Diana Hsieh
Recently, a draft proposal by the Health and Human Services to change the standard definition of pregnancy was leaked to the press. If implemented, the proposal would alter the definition of pregnancy so that it would start with fertilization of the egg, not with the implantation of the embryo in the womb, as in the medical understanding of pregnancy. The change is a special concession to the religious zealots who believe that a fertilized egg is a human person: it would allow them to deny perfectly legal medical services to sometimes-desperate women, despite tax funding, under the false banner of religious freedom.
I sent the following letter to the editor to the Wall Street Journal in response to that news about two weeks ago. Since I don't think it will be published, I'll reproduce it here:
The Bush Administration's attempt to define conception as the start of pregnancy rather than implantation -- thereby classifying the birth control pill as abortion -- is an ominous sign for reproductive freedom in America ("Treating the Pill as Abortion, Draft Regulation Stirs Debate," Jul 31). If adopted, that standard would ensure that any future ban on abortion would apply equally to the birth control pill. Millions of women would be cut off from their preferred method of preventing unwanted pregnancy.I've seen quite a few good responses to the proposed rule change, but my favorite by far is the fantastic satire William Saletan dishes out in Slate. The subtitle encapsulates the essay perfectly: "The pro-life case against birth control, nursing, and exercise." I highly recommend it.
Even worse, the principle underlying this rule would justify banning all contraception. The religious right's new-found opposition to birth control methods that prevent implantation shows that they regard all women as obliged to make their bodies hospitable to pregnancy. God's will, not human reason and choice, must govern the creation of new life. By that vicious principle, all birth control, from condoms to sterilization, must be banned as defiance of God's will.
If that doesn't show contempt for human life, then nothing does.
Also, Bloomberg columnist Ann Woolner also makes the following astute observations:
Why call contraception abortion? It's not as if anti-abortionists can stop either one of them.The Religious Right does not merely wish to prevent women from terminating unwanted pregnancies. They want to prevent women from using the most effective means, apart from sterilization, of preventing unwanted pregnancies.
But while waiting for the Supreme Court to strike down Roe v. Wade, they've been persuading state legislatures and Congress to restrict abortions in every imaginable way, making it as difficult as possible for women to get them.
Now they want to make it just as hard to get contraception.
Contraception as most women practice it is part of the "culture of death," declared Susan Orr, whom President George W. Bush put in charge of the Office of Population Affairs.