Don't leave it to Leavitt

Tell HHS -- by tomorrow -- that the health of millions of women should be on its "conscience."

Published September 24, 2008 3:04PM (EDT)

Two noteworthy deadlines are approaching. One: The end -- not soon enough -- of the dismal Bush oiligarchy, which has left its mark virtually nowhere but downtown Manhattan, New Orleans, Iraq and, oh right, the nation's economy. Two: The end -- Thursday at midnight -- of the 30-day public comment period on the proposed HHS regulation that, by leaving the term "abortion" open to interpretation, would allow providers to withhold basic services and information, possibly even including contraception, based on their own biases. (Excellent summary here.) Some note that low-income women seeking basic healthcare have the most to lose.

In response to widespread outrage and criticism since the proposal was introduced, and even tweaked, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt has -- consistently, flippantly, erroneously and utterly without irony* -- refused to address the core concerns of the regulation's opponents (including a bipartisan coalition of governors and attorneys general, and more than 100 members of Congress). Or to specify, given that federal civil rights protections already exist for providers who opt out of abortion services, why there exists such a "serious need" for this rule in the first place.

Why, indeed?

See "dismal Bush oiligarchy," supra. "Congress won't be taking up any more legislation of significance, and the clock is ticking on the Bush Administration. The only thing left for the Bush Administration to do on abortion will be done from HHS through rules and regulations. Leavitt knows it, knows how to play it, and is spinning wildly without addressing the very serious threats to preventing abortion through access to contraception that these regulations pose," writes Scott Swenson on "What Leavitt is doing has nothing to do with operating in the real world -- it is about using what time he has left in office to elevate one person's ideology over another's choice, and to further divide the nation by using the issue of abortion and ideology, as opposed to working together on education, prevention and accepted medical science." (Note: For brevity's sake, I snipped out Swenson's particularly eloquent discussion of conscience vs. "conscience." Go read it.)

So, the public comments. According to Planned Parenthood, over 65,000 of its supporters have already spoken up -- that's just Planned Parenthood. The National Partnership for Women and Families, among many others, also provides this prefab (and editable) letter for you to click 'n' send. (My version would be much less polite.) You can also e-mail, or go straight to the source (and read the proposal) here. And the comments themselves, it should be noted, are an excellent, if graphically inelegant, read. Of course, there is always the lurking sense that we're scribbling, vainly, in Lost's notebooks to nowhere, but still. What can I do but follow my conscience?

*Here Leavitt accuses opponents of attempting to "subvert the law in favor of their ideology." Over here, I snarf my Snapple.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

MORE FROM Lynn Harris

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Broadsheet Health