‘Office of Unborn Children’s Health’ Is Health Care Reform?

Amie Newman

Oh, Senator Coburn. Do you honestly believe an "Office of Unborn Children's Health" has a role to play in health care reform? Will it improve the United States' dismal maternal and newborn mortality rates?

Thanks to NARAL’s Blog for Choice’s Molly Jackson for this fascinatingly angering bit of news:

Last week, Congress began the formal process of overhauling the nation’s health-care system as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee began to mark up** its health-care reform legislation – the Affordable Health Choices Act. This committee is one of five congressional panels with jurisdiction over this broad policy area.

During this first stage of the mark-up process, Republicans filed 300-plus amendments that address women’s health in some way, approximately a dozen of which are anti-choice. Which one do you think jumped out at us right away? An amendment from (whom else?) Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to establish a federal "Office of Unborn Children’s Health."

The amendment includes requirements that this office develop an "Unborn Child Pain Awareness" brochure that would remind pregnant women seeking information on their options that "There is substantial evidence that the process of being killed in an abortion will cause the unborn child pain…"

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Molly notes, as a reminder, that Senator Coburn is the same "pro-life" representative from whose mouth, during his 2004 Senate campaign, these words were uttered: "I favor the death penalty for abortionists and others who take life." 

Are we honestly to believe that at a time when millions of Americans – including those children who are born – lack health insurance and therefore go without necessary health care, we should be devoting finances to an "Office of Unborn Children’s Health"? Is there a reason why Senator Coburn feels we need a Harry Potter/Ministry of Magic sounding governmental department for "unborn children" rather than – oh, say – a full scale financial committment to providing resources for pregnant women to ensure they receive the prenatal care they need for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby? 

Someone should tell Senator Coburn that the United States has one of the worst maternal mortality rates of all industrialized nations, and we rank ahead of only one industrialized country (Latvia) when it comes to infant survival. 

Health care reform is critical in order to improve health outcomes for both women and newborn babies. But this kind of an amendment only serves to deepen the ideological divide between those on both sides of the abortion debate. It does absolutely nothing to improve health care access or Americans’ lives. 

Molly puts it best:

With so many Americans lacking basic health care, it is unconscionable that Sen. Coburn continues to use legislation on this important issue as a means to continue his ideological attacks.

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