One step forward. Several steps back for women again in the 2003 Bush
budget. Theologians have wrestled with the question for centuries. At
what moment in time does a single egg in a woman when combined with a
single sperm from a man become a human person? The Bush administration
has solved it for us. They have taken it out of the realm of theology
and now proclaim by law that an egg from its moment of meeting the sperm
is a child. Guess that takes care of that problem.
And of course they deny that the edict has anything to do with their
policy on abortion!
As the nation marks the 29th anniversary of Roe v. Wade when the U. S.
Supreme Court legalized abortion, access to reproductive health care is
increasingly jeopardized by the imposition of religious beliefs and
The Bush administration says that the developing fetus from the moment
of conception to age 19 is a child and should be eligible for
government-funded health insurance, thus elevating the status of the
fetus above that of the woman. This would effectively by-pass the
pregnant woman, gaining insurance eligibility for the fetus instead.
No one can question the need for pre-natal care for all pregnant women
whatever their financial situation, but as Gail Shoettler wrote in the
Denver Post, "If the President really cares about helping pregnant
women stay healthy themselves and give birth to healthy babies, he'll
find the money to do it directly."
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said that the plan
to broaden eligibility for health insurance "is going to help poor
mothers be able to take care of their unborn children and get the
medical care they absolutely vitally need," marking the first time that
any federal program has attempted to define childhood as beginning
before birth. This is another back door attack on Roe v. Wade.
Currently the State Children's Health Insurance (CHIP), a ten year old
$40 million collaboration between the states and the federal government
covers children of low income parents from birth to age 19. States have
been able to extend coverage to pregnant women by obtaining a federal
waiver. Colorado officials have chosen to apply for such a waiver.
According to Thompson, the new rule simply makes it faster for states to
provide pre-natal care.
But, to quote Schoettler again, "The obvious next step is to make
abortion murder under the law, taking away the right of women to make
their own choices about their reproductive health.
The Bush budget contains several other alarming items that would
impact women's lives.
The de-funding of the United Nations Family Planning Act is a clear
indication that the administration does not support or believe in the
value of international family planning for millions of poor women around
the world. The President's budget eliminates UNFPA for 2003, and strips
funding for UNFPA for 2002, even though Congress approved $34 million
for the program last December. The Denver Post editorial page says,
"Attempting to impose the philosophy of any U. S. sect worldwide is the
worst sort of religious imperialism and flies in the face of both the U.
S. Constitution and the will of Congress. And it wins us no friends
The new budget also proposes a $33 million increase in abstinence-only
education funding to $73 million for 2003. Certainly abstinence among
teenagers is the ideal solution to a national problem, but the teens
don't always take too seriously such lectures between math and physical
ed. These education programs do not even allow any conversation about
contraception, except to highlight failure rates. Young people should
be given the information they need to protect themselves from unwanted
pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
One wonders when the suits are going to quit messing around with women's
reproductive lives. One step forward. Several steps back.