The Wall Street Journal reports that the Bush Administration is about to issue a draft regulation that treats most birth-control pills and intrauterine devices as abortion because they can work by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. As the paper notes, the real issue here is defining when pregnancy begins:
Set aside the fraught question of when human life begins. The new debate: When does pregnancy begin?
The Bush Administration has ignited a furor with a proposed definition of pregnancy that has the effect of classifying some of the most widely used methods of contraception as abortion.
A draft regulation, still being revised and debated, treats most birth-control pills and intrauterine devices as abortion because they can work by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. The regulation considers that destroying “the life of a human being.”
Many medical groups disagree. They hold that pregnancy isn’t established until several days after conception, when the fertilized egg has grown to a cluster of several dozen cells and burrowed into the uterine wall. Anything that disrupts that process, in their view, is contraception.
The draft regulation, circulating within the Department of Health and Human Services, would have no immediate effect on the legality of the pill or the IUD if implemented because abortion is legal. But opponents fear it would undercut dozens of state laws designed to promote easy access to these methods of birth control, used by more than 12 million women a year.
. . .
The regulation’s stated purpose is to improve enforcement of existing federal laws that protect some medical professionals’ right to refuse to participate or assist in abortion.
In a lengthy preamble entitled “The Problem,” the draft argues that state laws too often coerce health-care workers into providing services they find immoral.
Among the laws considered coercive: Requirements that emergency rooms offer rape victims the morning-after pill, insurance plans cover contraception as part of prescription-drug benefits, and pharmacists fill prescriptions for birth control. The draft regulation would weaken these laws by expanding the right of conscientious objection.
The White House said the administration “has an obligation to enforce” that right and is “exploring a number of options.”
If the regulation is enacted, insurers, hospitals, HMOs and other institutions could claim that a law requiring them to dispense contraception or subsidize an IUD discriminated against their religious convictions. State and local governments would have to certify in writing that they don’t practice such discrimination. Those who didn’t comply could lose federal funding or be sued for damages.
Read it all here.