Now, I didn't vote for Sen. Clinton in the presidential primary. Hell, one might argue whether the vote I cast was "voting" at all (oh, Michigan). But in this case, she's absolutely, 100% right. And we all need to be paying attention.
The Bush Administration is up to its old tricks again, quietly putting ideology before science and women's health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is poised to put in place new barriers to accessing common forms of contraception like birth control pills, emergency contraception and IUDs by labeling them "abortion." These proposed regulations set to be released next week will allow healthcare providers to refuse to provide contraception to women who need it.
My god, what a cruel political trick this is, playing on people's emotions by using the word "abortion" to restrict their access to the absolutely vital, normal birth control procedures that allow us to live healthy lives and--when and if we're ready--to raise healthy children.
My one quibble with Sen. Clinton is the framing of this as a women's rights issue. Yes, it is one; women will be disporportunately harmed by this. But I don't think it takes a big mental leap to see how this political misbehavior hurts people of all genders, all ages. Family planning is a fundamental tool not only for the safety of our bodies, but for our neighborhoods.
Here's more from Sen. Clinton on the affect of this looming threat:
These rules ... could prevent providers of federally-funded family planning services, like Medicaid and Title X, from guaranteeing their patients access to the full range of comprehensive family planning services. They'll also build significant barriers to counseling, education, contraception and preventive health services for those who need it most: low-income and uninsured women and men.
The regulations could even invalidate state laws that currently ensure access to contraception for many Americans. In fact, they describe New York and California's laws requiring prescription drug insurance plans to provide coverage for contraceptives as part of "the problem." These rules would even interfere with New York State law that ensures survivors of sexual assault and rape receive emergency contraception in hospital emergency rooms.
Great. Leave victims of rape to birth their attacker's child because you think emergency contraception--which is a mere extra-dose of a birth control pill taken within three days of intercourse--is an "abortion." (A framing that portrays abortion as if it were something always bad for all people, by the way).
And this is the environment where John McCain can't do anything better than mumble uncomfortably when asked--by his campaign chairwoman, no less--about the ridiculousness of insuring Viagra, while not insuring birth control? That's twenty-two "no's" for family planning. And, as we see in the infamous video clip, he forgot all about it.
Katha Pollitt's brilliant analysis on the behavior of the "maverick" goes like this:
So. John McCain is so opposed to contraception he voted against requiring insurance plans to cover it like other drugs, and either so indifferent to women's health and rights or just so out of it he doesn't even remember how he voted. That's the way to show American women you really care.
This is not a trivial issue. There's the basic unfairness of not covering these essential, even life-saving drugs and devices, so fundamental to women's health and well-being, and the added insult of denying coverage while men are lavished with cut-rate erections.
Happily, there's still some sense in this mad world. I see hope in people like Pollitt and Sen. Clinton who are calling bullshit, and those folks who--despite political loyalties and party lines--can join them on this matter of basic common sense and human care.
Here's where else I see hope:
- Catholic for Choice just launched an international campaign to push bishops to end their 40-year ban on contraception--a mostly ignored ban, but one that's vital for re-centering the Church on the community justice that it manifests at its best. They released an exploration of the ban in a fascinating (and colorful) report called Truth & Consequence: A Look behind the Vatican’s Ban on Contraception.
- Heather Corinna continues to offer the most amazing and honest sexuality resource for young people (and, I dare say, all people) at Scarleteen -- and her good word is spread even further now with her Friday column, "Get Real!," over at RH Reality Check.
- The House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee just passed a bill that will offer the largest amount of money ever dedicated to international family planning --- $600 million. Now, if only my government didn't think I was having an abortion every time I took a birth control pill, maybe we'd get somewhere on the homefront.
The good news is good, but don't let it overshadow how important it is for us to speak up and out, spread the word high and low, about the current extraordinary threat to our health, our privacy, and--yes, I'll say it--our free will.
Read up--RH Reality Check is all over this with what they're calling the "Contra-bortion?" series, not just with Sen. Clinton's take, but with a variety of voices, web resources, and other informational tools that will keep you aware of what's happening, how it will affect you, and how it may affect your neighbors. For the primary source, read the HHS proposal here (PDF).
Tell Sec. Leavitt to block these new rules that are currently still in draft form.
Tell your Congressional representatives what you think.
Go Web 2.0. Blog about this. Email the articles. Post them on Facebook. Post comments on the articles. Make a short video on YouTube about this. Digg the articles about this. Post them to del.icio.us. Twitter about this. Text your friends. Bring it into Second Life.
Go Web 1.0. Write an article for a print publication--a viewpoint in a local publication, perhaps. Write a letter to the editor. Make a zine. Make a pamphlet. Write a book. Write a dissertation, a thesis, a classroom essay about it. Hold a rally. Give a speech. Have a conversation. Call into a radio report about this, or a local television channel. Hold a discussion circle with your friends and neighbors over a potluck. Talk to the people you trust with your health.
Read more--The New York Times has a report on how "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." This is directly related to the HHS regulations.
Join in. Count yourself among those who care by joining one of the many admirable organizations you can count on in times like these: Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Choice USA, SisterSong, Catholics for Choice, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Guttmacher Institute, and many other worthies.
UPDATE: I hear that ABC News is reporting that more than 100 members of Congress sent a joint letter to the White House yesterday "urging him to "halt all action" on a proposal they argue would change the definition of abortion, and drastically limit women's access to birth control."