Using Pseudoscience at HHS

Kathleen Barry

The extremists are coming out of the closet with their real agenda: the assault on birth control.

I thought the battle for women’s rights had largely been won. But the
extremists are coming out of the closet with their real agenda, the
assault on birth control. This fringe has won converts for its warped
pseudo-science at the Department of Health and Human Services, where a
proposed rule would codify that anyone receiving federal funding could
not be required to provide birth control under the basis that it might
violate their religious views.

The new rules would mean that all
health care providers — including pharmacists and medical staff at
hospitals and clinics, medical schools and even family planning centers
— could refuse to provide all forms of contraception. Women’s rights
are being put at the whim of their providers who could now claim a
"conscience" clause to refuse to cover birth control in medical plans
or provide pregnancy prevention to rape victims.

It seems the
debate over women’s reproductive rights has come full circle, so that
women are once again forced to argue for their right of
self-determination. Every day, Americans face important life decisions,
with outcomes that will reverberate for years: how to afford health
care; how to die with dignity, how to talk to teenagers about sex; when
and what kind of contraceptives to use; when to have a baby and whether
it is safe to have more than one child. This debate is really about
more than contraception, it’s about life decisions and whether women
get to make them for themselves.

How did this happen? With nine
out of every ten American women using contraceptives, you’d think we
were out of the Dark Ages. It’s a small minority of activists who are
pushing for these extreme measures. The Women Donors Network, together
with Communications Consortium Media Center, conducted research and
found that 91 percent of voters agreed that couples should have access
to birth control. Voters believe, by 83 percent, that we should respect
people’s ability to make their own life decisions, including when to
have a child — and not impose our values and views on them.

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extremists’ agenda is designed to strip woman of self-determination. We
cannot allow the intractable debate on pregnancy termination to
overshadow our right to prevent a pregnancy. Under the proposed HHS
rule anyone — the doctor, the pharmacist, the receptionist — could
deny a woman the right to contraception.

Given that
contraceptives prevent unintended pregnancies, you would think that the
anti-abortion crowd would be the biggest promoter of birth control. Not
so, because their real target is to end family planning. It’s time to
move on to the critical issues about reproductive health and sexuality
that face all of us every day — issues such as access to contraception
and cervical cancer prevention. Let’s agree to disagree about abortion,
but certainly prevention of unwanted pregnancy can be a common ground
goal most Americans can agree upon.

The public has only until September 25th to send comments to HHS about the proposed rule. Send your comments to [email protected].
The proposed HHS rule should die a swift death and the anti-women
activists should back off, allowing the rest of us to move on.

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