The recent regulations proposed by the Bush administration's Health and Human Services officials, if put into play, would not only send the administration out in a blaze of shame and vindictiveness toward women throughout the country, but also turn the clock back a full century.
A hundred years ago, when Margaret Sanger, the mother of birth control, was waging her battle to decriminalize contraception, one of the many obstacles she faced was the public's inability to distinguish between birth control and abortion. Sexual knowledge was so muddled and public discussion so muted that many men and women did not understand there even was a difference. Letters in the Sanger archives tell of having to explain to U.S. Congressmen that one was a preventive measure and the other a medical procedure. Most of the Congressmen refused to listen. Sex was a taboo subject, though not an unknown pastime. The ones who did pay attention often ended up snickering.
Our current society is saturated with sex. It sells every product under the sun, floods the air waves, and inundates the internet. But the Bush administration, ever backward looking, still cannot distinguish between contraception and abortion. An August 10th editorial in the Houston Chronicle discusses a regulation now under consideration that would classify most birth control pills, IUDs, and Plan B emergency contraception as abortion. The latter would not be permitted even in case of rape. The proposal does not argue that these methods are not preventatives. It argues that since they prevent the fertilization of eggs, they are abortion. The Bush administration has never been on easy terms with modern science.
Opposition to the regulations includes not only Planned Parenthood, which is to be expected, but the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. But again, this administration has no interest in medical or any other kind of expert opinion. The Decider knows he's right.
A bipartisan congressional group also opposes the regulations, but, and here's the really scary part, the draft does not require congressional approval.
In some ways, we have come a long way since Margaret Sanger went to jail for opening a clinic in Brooklyn to provide health care for poor women. Recent polls show that the American public overwhelmingly supports birth control. But thanks to Bush and the social conservatives who helped put him in office, poor women still do not have access to health care, and medical practice is state of the art -- circa 1908.