Birth control is not abortion

Karol Collymore

I told a someone once that I wanted an IUD because I was sick of taking the pill. "IUD's are abortion!" she said. I was in disbelief. I didn't think anyone fell for those old fear tactics anymore, but I was wrong. And the Bush administration is using this ignorance to their advantage. This from the New York Times:

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.

Under the draft of a proposed rule, hospitals, clinics, researchers and medical schools would have to sign “written certifications” as a prerequisite to getting money under any program run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Such certification would also be required of state and local governments, forbidden to discriminate, in areas like grant-making, against hospitals and other institutions that have policies against providing abortion.

Yes, you read right. If your medical clinic receives federal funds, they can hire a doctor who can refuse to give you birth control in any form. Guess what kind of clinics get federal funds? Yup, the ones where the non-insured go. The ones where poor people go. You know what they define abortion as? Read on:


The proposal defines abortion as follows: “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.”

It is so subtle, but its there. Women's pills, shots, IUDs, and especially the Morning After pill are being targeted. "Before implantation?" Who are they trying to fool? Jeff Merkley read between the lines and has started a petition. Read what he said. Stand up for choice, sign the petition.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Thanks for writing about this, Karol. I've been covering this over at Blog for Oregon for the past week or so. I hadn't seen anything on here and was going to write up a guest column if I didn't see anything soon.

    One of the parts of this new rule would change the description of when pregnancy begins. Right now, the medically accepted beginning of a pregnancy is when the fertilized egg is implanted into the lining of the uterus. It is after this point that hormone changes are made in the body, tests can show up positive for being pregnant, etc.

    The new rule would say that pregnancy begins as soon as the egg is fertilized. Which as we all know, there is no test for this. Many eggs are fertilized that never end up as a pregnancy.

    The new rules would allow medical professionals to deny to prescribe birth control to you, as you might be "pregnant" (have a fertilized egg that isn't implanted). And giving you that birth control could cause an abortion (according to them, since they'll now be able to label birth control as abortion).

    These new rules are a huge setback for women, and just one step forward towards making birth control even less accessible to women.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    This is stupid, but one more reason why people of all political views should be opposed to a centralized bagman that can put political strings on the money. We just can't predict who'll be in charge in the near future let alone the distant future.

    Some of these people even object to condoms, but that reminds me of a condom joke -- ever hear of a Catholic dozen? One of them has a gole in it.

    Bob Tiernan

  • (Show?)

    Ditto Jenni on the thanks, Karol. It sounds as if these rules are still being made & be subject to a public comment process. We should not treat this as fait accompli but make a big fight out of it. It is good that Jeff Merkley is taking a lead in doing so.

    This connects to presidential politics. In an odd way, the recent flap over John McCain's views on insuring viagra vs. birth control is a distraction.

    We need to focus on McCain's basic and long-term opposition to women's right to control their bodies and their fertility.

    John McCain has "consistently voted agaist taxpayer funded contraception programs," said Brian Jones, McCain's communications director in March 2007. McCain says that his main source of advice on reproduction politics, and women's right to control their own fertilty, is Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Coburn a radical opponent of birth control and an important political leader of a growing conservative anti-contraception movement which has expanded from an originally Roman Catholic base to include many Protestant political rightists.

    These positions are dramatically out of line with the views of the vast majority of Americans. Access to birth control is also an issue on which there is direct contrast between McCain and Obama. Several years ago a supposed drafting error in the renewal of a federal program that had, among other things, subsidized birth control pills at family planning clinics and university health centers, led to those subsidies being ended and the cost of birth control rising dramatically for low-income women and college students. McCain opposed efforts to restore the subsidies, while Obama proposed a bill to do so.

  • (Show?)

    Apparently this administration is not aware of the fact that use of birth control, as established in 1967's Griswold v. Connecticut, is a Constitutionally protected right. So inconvenient, those darn "rights" and all.

    This is just so incredibly nutty, how far the Far Right has gone in implementing their agenda in this administration.

  • (Show?)

    I just signed a petition for this the other day, I think it was NOW? Anyway - thank you Karol! A friend also emailed me a link to a story about this today (she was enraged, rightly so). Seems a lot of people have heard about this but we're not talking about it enough. Please please please talk about with everyone you know. Tell all your friends. And for goodness sake sign this and every other petition about this that appears in your inbox!

  • UJ (unverified)
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    Hilary Clinton has jumped on this, holding a press conference, writing in HuffPo and RH Reality Check about it, and her and Senator Murray wrote directly to the Secretary of HHS about the "gratuitous, unnecessary insult to the women of the United States of America." This really shows just how much anti-choicers are all about controlling women's bodies and not about "protecting life".
    Hopefully with all the media attention on it, it'll remain as just a proposal and this insane redefinition will die quickly.

  • Lloyd C. Cranston (unverified)
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    The New York Times - now there's a reliable source.

  • (Show?)

    I wish I felt surprised about this.

    Yesterday when I was running an errand with my 15 year old daughter..she mentioned to me that her friend's mother wouldn't let her use tampons because tampons take away a girl's virginity.

    The friend was wanting us to buy tampons for her so she could sneak them on a trip where she was going to be swimming.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    This is a burning issue for the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy and a number of fundamentalist Christians. At the time of Thomas Acquinas, the foremost theologian of the Roman Church, there was a different teaching about human beings. It was taught that a human being came into existence with the act of ensoulment which happens in a latter phase of pregnancy. Gary Wills in an Op/Ed piece in the LA Times gives a good background on the Roman Church's varied teaching on abortion. http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-op-wills4nov04,0,7799993.story?coll=la-opinion-center

    A modern pope, Pope Pius IX, 1869, changed this teaching to state that ensoulment happens at the moment of conception or fertilization of the egg. This teaching paints a picture of a rather strange universe. We now know that 60-70% of all fertilized ova either do not implant or self-abort shortly after implantation in the womb. Hence the Roman Church tells us that we live in a universe in which 60-70% of all human beings who come into existence with immortal souls are flushed down the toilet. Since these poor souls do not have the benefit of baptism, speculation is that they lose out on the chance at heaven and end up in that undefinable state of "Limbo." The Roman Church is now litigating this issue with proxies in the state of Washington siding with a pharmacy chain that wants to allow its pharmacists to refuse giving the morning after pill, since in the Roman Catholic teaching, intervening to stop implantation amounts to murder of a human being. As long as we have this kind of grotesque version of moral theology being foisted on American civil law, then what most of us understand as birth control will be viewed as murder by the law and the government, at least in some states and some quarters of government.

    I do not dispute that the law should be guided by a national consensus of moral teaching informed by science. Most American believe that, especially in later stages of pregnancy the larger community has a take in protecting the life and affirming the dignity of a soon-to-be-born fetus. But this notion that a fertilized egg is a human being with an immortal soul and all the rights under law of a human being, is absurd.

  • (Show?)

    NARAL has now set up a tool for sending e-mail to Congress calling on representatives and senators to try to stop this rule.

    It can be found here.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    I can understand moral objection to abortion, though I do not agree with calls to make the procedure illegal. Objection to birth control, however, is just about the clearest symptom of mental derangement I can think of. This is particularly true of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church who profess to compassion for human suffering but guarantee its permanence through their edicts on sex and reproduction.

    In the the US Protestant fundamentalist seem to have more political influence. At least their position is more consistent. They demonstrate very little compassion for anyone, anywhere who does not live by the rules the fundies insist are God's own.

  • Murphy (unverified)
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    “[T]he law should be guided by a national consensus of moral teaching informed by science.”

    This about this sentence for a minute. “The law should be guided (not dictated) by a national (not individual) consensus (not dogma) of moral (not religious) teaching informed (not devoid of) by science.

    Gosh -- one could almost built a just society on such an idea. We should try it.

  • Murphy (unverified)
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    This is what I get for writing in a haze of cold medicine.

    “[T]he law should be guided by a national consensus of moral teaching informed by science.”

    Think about this sentence for a minute. “The law should be guided (not dictated) by a national (not individual) consensus (not dogma) of moral (not religious) teaching informed (not devoid of) by science.

    Gosh -- one could almost build a just society on such an idea. We should try it.

  • tl (unverified)
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    I've said it before and I'll say it again.

    To reduce the number of abortions, there must be a reduction in unwanted pregnancies. Even C. Everett Coop, former Surgeon General under Reagan and a staunch anti-abortionist understood this basic truth.

    The anti-abortionists, if they are swayed at all by logic and/or pragmatism should want to support the availability of contraception and sex education, both which have been shown to a) reduce pregnancy and b) delay first sexual intercourse (despite arguments people may make about condoning or encouraging promiscuity).

    Those who support the choice of abortion should be actively supporting making sex education and contraception available. It will reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, without limiting the right to choose abortion.

    Thanks for sharing the info. I've signed the petitions.

    -tl

  • (Show?)

    The anti-abortionists, if they are swayed at all by logic and/or pragmatism

    Unfortunately, that's kind of the point. They aren't swayed by these things.

  • tl (unverified)
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    Unfortunately, that's kind of the point. They aren't swayed by these things.

    Reminds me of a Garrison Keillor monologue (on a completely different topic) where he says: "Sometimes you just have look reality in the eye and deny it."

  • Denise (unverified)
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    Thanks Karol,

    I'd missed this on other sites.

    Adults, especially women, are unimportant, but a cluster of cells that may or may not be "ensouled" according to some committee of old farts is the most important thing in the universe.

    I hope we can finally inject some sense into our country with the end of the shrub gang. The insanity wears me down.

  • bill V (unverified)
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    With sincere respect to all here- I am opposed to abortion of any kind because, similarly, it seems reasonable to me that the human person exists before birth. My oldest sister, for example, was born after only a little more than 5 mos. into my mother's pregnancy. She was smaller than the length of the doctor's hand but survived. It doesn't seem reasonable to me that she was not a living person till that moment. More likely (I don't think it's a stretch to say) it points to the contrary. So, given that I think it's wrong to kill (via capital punishment, war or in any other way) short of a right to self-defense (and by self-defense I mean that lethal acts must be resisted here too if possible- I think that there is no intent to kill in self-defense cases, but only an intent to stop a malicious attack on one's self) I also think it's wrong to kill a person before birth. Of course this raises the question of how far I would go in standing up for a child. Well- all the way. Since the issue for me then becomes, "when does life begin?" I fall back on what to me is a basic principle of justice: If I presently see that some "good" exists- it's reasonable to think it existed a moment ago (and so forth) back to when the subject that carries it began. This is the foundation for "the presumption of innocence" in our courts. It's also the reason why Supreme Court decisions, though technically law, are not immune from challenge- See Dred Scott. So, I think implantation has little to do with the question at hand. The question seems to me to be: conception or some point later? Since cell division towards an individual's development begins due to fertilization of the egg- that's where I'm convinced it begins. Any other point seems to me to be doubtful and if doubtful then the presumption of existing good compels my conscience. My conscience is what I'm primarily responsible for, but it also implies that I ought to dialogue with others- especially in a case like this, because of greatness of the question. If I lived in the U.S. during the early 1800s (and before)-when the value of the human lives of African-Americans was diminished by laws and even a Supreme Court decision- I would have to make a similar argument based on the same principles- and time should have taught us that we would be right to do so. The implication of all this is- that if one is professionally qualified to work in the health care industry, they have the same right to do so as those who do not share their reasoning in regard to matters like these. If "liberty" does not imply this . . . it says nothing at all. Of course an I.U.D. that only acts as a barrier is not an abortive agent - it is a conception preventative measure or can serve some other purpose - but some things that prevent conception also are capable of destroying the developing human . . . and that I oppose. I oppose it for the sake of my own conscience and for the sake of the lives it may save. With the conclusion of "Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address" (1865) which is etched in stone on the North wall of the inside of the Lincoln Memorial, I conclude my offering to this discussion for which this website was designed. Within it reads, "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right" I wish well to all of you, those who agree with my reasoning and those who do not.

    Thanks

  • tl (unverified)
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    bill V,

    I appreciate your tone of your respectful post. One question. You wrote:

    Of course an I.U.D. that only acts as a barrier is not an abortive agent - it is a conception preventative measure or can serve some other purpose - but some things that prevent conception also are capable of destroying the developing human . . . and that I oppose.

    So, what are the methods of contraception you believe "are capable of destroying the developing human"?

    I am encouraged that you appear to not oppose IUDs. What other forms of contraception do you support, and which do you oppose? What are your thoughts on sex education? What are your reactions to other opposed to abortion rights who are also opposed to all forms of contraception and sex ed?

    Respectfully, -tl

  • bill V (unverified)
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    Thanks tl- I think, based on what I already stated above, that the excerpt from the NYT that Karol inserted would provide the qualifications for what I mean:

    The proposal defines abortion as follows: “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.”

    To be forced to prescribe or administer such (against my conscience) would deprive me of a "blessing of liberty" to which I am entitled - that is : to follow my calling in life according to the good as I see it. This applies also to those who have excercised their right to the same in association.

    While I'd share my thoughts on the other matters when it is the focus of an article- it's not the topic of this one - and it seems better to me to stay on subject.

  • ahd (unverified)
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    First, I'd like to say that it seems the primary objective of this new rule would be protection for employment. To allow employees the right to refuse prescribing contraceptives based on personal views (religious, or otherwise) seems like the basic protection of freedom of religion (or even simply, freedom to think). It is a misjudgement to assume that all people who hold the belief that conception occurs at the moment of fertilization are right-wing religious fundamentalists. However, even if they are right-wing religious fundamentalists, shouldn't they still recieve the same rights of freedom as all other citizens of the United States? Because there is some discrepency amongst medical doctors over when the moment of conception or humaneness occurs, it appears that there should be protection given for employees of both views to continue or recieve employment without regard to their personal beliefs.

    As to the comment that only poor people tend to go to federally sponsored medical facilities, do you mean to then suggest that poorer people are more in need of contraceptives that the un-poor? What exactly did you mean by bringing up that point? It may be a stretch, but this line of thought could easily produce more damaging thoughts such as "poor people should not be allowed to choose to have more children, they need doctors who will prescribe contraceptives". Secondly, simply because this ruling would protect employees at facilities that recieve federal aide does not imply that ALL employees in these locations would refuse to prescribe birth controls.

    Finally, to "bill v" - if your view of conception is before implantation (as your writing suggests it is), then I recommend you review the medical notes of how an IUD works. It is clearly explained that an IUD alters the lining of the uterus, which then makes implantation difficult at best. Therefore, if your view is that conception occurs before implantation, then an IUD has potential to cause an early abortion.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    The principle that a medical/pharmaceutical professional can deny legally authorized and mandated medical services on a selective basis based on conscience if we choose to be in that profession is dangerous one. Some religious views that claim conscience of believers, would hold that giving transfusions is immoral. Or prayer over medication?

    Where does this principle end? There are some hospitals who want to deny the morning after pill to a rape victim, a legal and medically authorized medication. So is the rape victim to be transported to the next town or city to find a hospital that will dispense this medication, at whose expense, at whose liability. At some point those who want to practice in the medical or pharmaceutical profession should be professionals and serve the public or get out.

  • ahd (unverified)
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    Bill R, perhaps the problem you are suggesting could be remedied by patients having the right to know the views of their potential doctor before agreeing to consultation/services by that doctor. It is true that the situation you name could happen, but it does not seem fair to force a doctor/pa/nurse/anyone to dispense prescriptive drugs that act contrary to their beliefs. Please understand that it is not a matter of breaking one's beliefs to appease another, it is a matter of moral responsibility. If the doctor believes that to give the morning after pill would in fact be killing an human being (albeit a 2-day old human being), then it should not be deemed reasonable to force that doctor to be an accomplice to the death of that child. Again, not all doctors agree on the point of conception and this is why this ruling is being promoted. I understand your question that at what action should the level of religious belief affect the doctors care. First, I believe every patient should assess their potential doctors beliefs in order to choose a doctor most closely aligned with their own beliefs. Second, as long as the patient chooses their own form of care why should anyone else force them to recieve care contrary to their belief?

  • (Show?)

    Why should a health clinic whose main purpose is family planning services - birth control - be forced to hire someone who is opposed to prescribing birth control? Right now, these clinics have the right to not hire someone who is in opposition of their entire purpose for existing. Under the new rules, they can't.

  • (Show?)

    There are a whole slew of my constitutional and public legal rights and whose exercise will get me fired by an employer if the employer deems them disruptive to business or the functioning of the organization.

    In this case, the open purpose of the rule is to obstruct individuals in the exercise of their constitutional (Griswold v. Connecticut) right to control their own fertility, and to impose a small minority moral viewpoint on the vast majority.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    With the kind of logic by ahd and others, a vegetarian has the right to work in a grocery store and refuse to serve meat products and still retain employment. Sheesh.. where does it end?? So when a rape victim is brought by ambulance to the only hospital in town and is denied treatment with the Plan B pill to prevent a pregnancy from rape, according to ahd she should have called ahead to find out, and arranged to be transported to a neighboring town hospital instead. If these pharmacists and doctors want to deny legal medicine and legal medical services, let them find another profession.

  • (Show?)

    To allow employees the right to refuse prescribing contraceptives based on personal views...

    Look, I disagree - but I understand the argument for allowin pharmacists to opt-out of prescribing things they morally disagree with.

    But that's only a small slice of what we're talking about here. We're also talking about a clinic secretary refusing to make appointments for patients who want to see a doc about some birth control. We're talking about accounts payable clerks refusing to process invoices for birth control prescriptions.

    This proposed rule is utterly absurd. It goes WAAAAAYYY beyond doctors and pharmacists. For the most part, those two professions (and nurses, to a lesser degree) are already the subject of substantial regulation and legislation at the state and federal level.

    This proposed rule is talking about everyone else. It's basically setting up a situation where every health care facility would have to have two parallel sets of staff - at every level, and for every task.

    Entirely stupid.

  • MaryAlecia (unverified)
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    Thank you for such a respectful and thoughtful tone to the feedback section of this post; it's refreshing. And it also makes me want to vomit. Now in my early 30's, and hopefully a bit wiser on the way to getting here, i've come to a very basic stance about birth control and abortion: it's my uterus, it's my body, it's my choice what i'm going to do with it, and I want the government and church to stay the hell out. I truly, honestly appreciate the soul searching, intelligent and philosophical intensity of the posts above, but when it comes down to it, what your feelings are about my uterus and what goes on in it are none of anyone's business. My doctor or NP or FNP should be advising me on my health, not matters of the soul or what will happen to it if I get an IUD or take the Morning-After-Pill.

  • Sam Geggy (unverified)
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    I confess to one offensively-naive bone left in my jaded body. I recall the late seventies when Federal funds were made available to aid impoverished and/or uninsured women and girls in accessing parity in healthcare viz women's health issues: STD testing and tx; birth control counseling and provisions; pregnancy testing, counseling, abortion funding access. The point was that middle class women and girls do exercise these choices because they have the personal financial and/or insurance resources to make the choices -- and so must all women and girls have the same opportunities in their gender-specific health needs, including control to the decision as to whether to keep a child or to choose their time based on their understanding of their own ability to adequately care for a new life. This was, of course, during the heights of the bloom of post-civil rights, Stonewall, sexual rights Movement... the rose was open.

    I recall being shocked in the eighties as I saw the access to funding narrow down, access to sites to receive services telescope down in numbers, and patriarchal "medicine" begin to make a comeback as anti-abortionists became more-openly active again in FQHA systems. It became ok again to ignore women’s requests for abortion information, even in cases of apparent personal life endangerment (personal story underlies this statement). Conservative language put hobbles on the feet of programs designed as access points for under-resourced women and girls. Some of this was notably region-specific (OK, MO, TN etc more reliably delivering a pregnant teen to parturition than perhaps OR or CA, but still no reliability in terms of receiving appropriate support for one's choice if it was to abort...). I could bore you with stories from within the IHS Hospital systems (as distinct from some of the latter-day clinics), a hermetically-sealed system not subject to the same Quality Boards and measures as is routine in the "outside" world - it would astound you into bleats of disbelieving rage.

    Thank you for alerting us to the subtle language that has slicked its way around the throat of women's services currently. We now live in a time of open-view rewrites of the Constitution. We must remain vigilant, subtle readers of the shadows, and share also how to act. How in the hell did that get into the books? Slippery! Now: how to do we get it out?

    Although, I suppose I should just grow up: waterboarding might not be torture. And the choice to carry to term just might not rest best in the hands of a woman and her trusted advisors. I keep trying to practice maturity and wrap my head around that.

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