Friday, August 22, 2008

The President is Screwing Women Who Screw

An infuriatingly underreported action was taken yesterday by President Bush and his henchman at the Department of Health and Human Services. The August 21st press release issued by the HHS, headlined Regulation Proposed to Help Protect Health Care Providers from Discrimination, describes a new regulation, now formally and officially “proposed,” that would “…increase awareness of, and compliance with, three separate laws protecting federally funded health care providers’ right of conscience… ‘This proposed regulation is about the legal right of a health care professional to practice according to their conscience,’ HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. ‘Doctors and other health care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience. Freedom of expression and action should not be surrendered upon the issuance of a health care degree’.”

As someone who has written countless press releases and practiced the delicate art of The Spin for a living, I am humbled by the audacity of the double-speak of this announcement and outraged by the insidious implications of the proposal. What it means in plain English, as the Boston Globe pointed out in a July 30th editorial warning against this measure (“A New Attack On Birth Control”), is that the “…proposed new regulation would expand the definition of abortion to include any form of contraception that can work by stopping implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus. This can include common birth-control pills, emergency contraception, and the intra-uterine device, or IUD… The potential impact of this new rule on the more than 500,000 hospitals, family planning clinics, and medical offices that receive any form of federal funding could be dramatic… The proposed rule, while claiming to protect the rights of nurses and doctors, would interfere with patients’ rights. A woman seeking treatment could be denied birth control and not even be aware that the service was available – only denied to her because of the unexpressed personal beliefs of the practitioner…”

Why are the anti-choice zealots – including the one who heads the HHS – opposed to birth control, the very practice that prevents unwanted pregnancies and therefore decreases the incidence of abortion? Because the anti-abortion movement has always been less about abortion itself and more about punishing women who are sexually active. They are, first and foremost, anti-sex and anti-woman as an autonomous being. And most dangerous of all, these fanatics feel completely justified in imposing their views of morality and proper sexual behavior on everyone else.

Here in America, we officially claim shock and disapproval of the treatment of women in other cultures, particularly countries where the strictures of Islam and other socially conservative beliefs hold sway. Yet through indifference, ignorance and a complete lack of appreciation of the seriousness of the situation, most Americans – including women – behave as if the reproductive health and freedom of women are secured and unchallenged. That ain’t so, as this proposal demonstrates. President Self-Righteous promised the Religious Right a going-away-present and this is it. And despite vociferous opposition from Congress, clergy and the medical establishment, this proposal is set to become law in 30 days. Planned Parenthood regards this as one of the most outrageous assaults on the personal rights of women ever proposed and is launching an all-out campaign to defeat it. I urge you to visit their site and do whatever you can to support their efforts. The right to sexual freedom you save could be your own.

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