At this point, the only way I can experience optimism about the Bush administration's approach to reproductive health is to misread, mishear and misinterpret. So when I read the first paragraph of a New York Times report on the administration's new reproductive health proposal, my unconscious became a conjurer of good news, lifting unfavorable words from the page and inserting desired ones. Thus, possessed by a Panglossian spirit, I read that the administration is fighting to ensure that health providers who perform abortions or distribute birth control are not discriminated against. Fantastic!
But the article actually reads: "The Bush administration wants to require all recipients of aid under federal health programs to certify that they will not refuse to hire nurses and other providers who object to abortion and even certain types of birth control." It is worth restating: The administration wants to ensure that recipients of federal health funding -- including women's clinics -- cannot deny employment based on a refusal to perform abortions or distribute birth control. Blogger Lazy Circles (via Feministing) summarizes the implications succinctly:
So, the inner city women's clinic employee who refuses to talk to patients about birth control? Can't touch her. The hospital pharmacist who refuses to fill prescriptions for birth control? She can't be fired or disciplined. The doctor who refuses to give emergency contraception to a rape victim for "religious reasons"? Give that man a promotion.
It gets worse. The proposal could potentially redefine birth control as abortion. The proposal classifies abortion as "any of the various procedures -- including the prescription, dispensing 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." That last part is critical because some argue that hormonal birth control and emergency contraception can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg.
In other words, as Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards explains in a press release Tuesday, the draft rule redefines "some of the most common and effective methods of birth control" as abortion. Richards adds, "As a result, women's ability to manage their own health care is at risk of being compromised by politics and ideology."