Federal health proposal undercuts state birth control laws

Cristina Page | 7/29/2008, 10:34 a.m.

Federal health proposal undercuts state birth control laws

The Bush administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been called “ground zero for the ideological wars in this country,” and a new HHS proposal just leaked proves why. In a spectacular act of complicity with extremists on the right, HHS is proposing to allow any federal grant recipient to obstruct a woman’s access to contraception.

The American public is nearly unanimous in supporting contraception: 90 percent favor wide availability for birth control, and 90 percent of sexually active women of reproductive age are using it. It is simple common sense: the average woman spends nearly three decades of her life attempting to be sexually active without getting pregnant, and access to contraception is the only proven way to avoid an unintended pregnancy.

For most women, birth control is a basic health care need. But with this new proposal, the Bush administration plans to hand over the reins of health care to the few extremists who want to impose their deeply unpopular right-wing doctrine on the many.

The “pill kills” fringe has generally been ignored for its warped pseudoscience, but not at Bush’s HHS. Its new proposal would make agencies receiving HHS funding promise not to discriminate in hiring against anyone who objects to abortion — and then redefines abortion to include most commonly used forms of birth control, including oral contraceptives and intrauterine devices, or IUDs.

This is the latest — and now incontrovertible — proof that the anti-abortion movement, and the administration that appears beholden to it, opposes basic pregnancy prevention and is firmly committed to control over Americans’ sex lives.

If the HHS proposal is approved, anti-contraceptive operatives will seize health financing, one of the most important levers of control. The regulations would be vast in scope and would serve as an open invitation for local extremists to directly meddle with your most important life decisions.

Under the new rule, any health care provider who receives federal funding and would like to prevent women from having access to prescription birth control would have federal protection for doing it. State laws requiring hospitals to give pregnancy prevention to rape victims would be automatically invalidated. Pharmacies nationwide could be granted instant permission to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control. Health centers may be forced to hire religious extremists who would refuse to provide contraception to their patients, even if contraception service is the main focus of the facility.

The new regulation would overrule laws in 27 states requiring health insurers to cover contraceptives. Keep in mind that the reluctance of health maintenance organizations (HMOs) to cover contraception was what led to these state mandates in the first place. Health insurance plans would likely be able to eliminate contraceptive coverage, re-imposing on women 68 percent more in out-of-pocket health care expenses than men pay.

President Bush has been committed to restricting Americans’ access to pregnancy prevention since his first days in office. In 2001, he attempted to eliminate contraceptive coverage for federal employees and soldiers.