Clinton, Lowey, Family Planning Advocates Sound Alarm on Bush Administration Plans to Obstruct Family Planning Services
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) today joined with New York family planning advocates in sounding the alarm on plans by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create new obstacles for women's access to contraception and family planning services. It recently came to light that the Bush Administration plans to underhandedly change the federal regulations relating to funding for the Department of Health and Human Services in a poorly-veiled attempt to roll-back women's health care options before the current Administration leaves office. In an event at Bellevue Hospital, Senator Clinton and Congresswoman Lowey underscored the importance of standing up against proposed regulations that would create roadblocks for women to obtain health care services and would weaken health care providers' ability to obtain funding.
Particularly of concern is the Administration's overly-broad definition of "abortion." This definition would allow health-care corporations or individuals to classify many common forms of contraception - including the birth control pill, emergency contraception and IUDs - "abortions" and therefore to refuse to provide contraception to women who need it. These regulations could even invalidate New York State laws that currently ensure access and drug insurance coverage of contraception, as well as laws that ensure survivors of sexual assault and rape receive emergency contraception in hospital emergency rooms.
"We know that prevention is the key to reducing unwanted pregnancies. But instead of putting prevention and sound science first, the Bush administration is once again putting ideology first and trying to block access to family planning services. We should be doing everything we can to make sure all women have access to the healthcare they need, not undermining women's health, and I will fight to stop these dangerous plans," said Senator Clinton.
"President Bush seems intent on leaving a legacy of draconian and restrictive reproductive policies. This regulation would expand the definition of abortion to include basic contraception, giving hospitals, HMOs, pharmacies, and doctors a green light to refuse to provide services or even make referrals for basic contraception. This policy defies common sense: access to birth control reduces unintended pregnancies and reduces abortions. I am proud to stand with Senator Clinton in opposing this outrageous and illogical proposal," said Congresswoman Lowey.
Senator Clinton and Congresswoman Lowey, along with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, and family planning advocates are speaking out against regulations proposed by HHS.
"We won't sit idly by while the President tries to prevent American women from being able to manage their own health care," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney. "It's abhorrent that President Bush wants to deny women access to critical health care services at a time when the ranks of the uninsured are swelling and too many hardworking women are struggling simply to make ends meet."
"This rule would have devastating consequences for women and families. At a time when more and more Americans lack health insurance, this policy will deny health care and information to those who need it most," said JoAnn M. Smith, president and CEO of Family Planning Advocates of New York State. "Contraception is basic health care for women. The Bush Administration wants to override states' laws that protect women and turn back the clock on effective public health programs that prevent unintended pregnancy."
"In my practice, I see poor women every day who struggle to support and care for their children. These regulations could make some of the best, most effective kinds of birth control out of reach for these vulnerable women," said Anne Davis, MD, MPH, an Obstetrician/Gynecologist at a Title X family planning clinic in Washington Heights, New York who serves as Medical Director of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.
"It was two years ago that we joined Senator Clinton to call for the FDA to issue a ruling on over-the-counter access to emergency contraception, against the ideological wishes of the Bush Administration. We were victorious then and we believe we will be again. The American people overwhelmingly agree that women deserve access to contraception and the right to decide when to become a parent. This new rule change would undermine those values and it would undermine the laws of New York State, as well," said Kelli Conlin, President of NARAL Pro-Choice New York.
"The real intent of the draft rules is to drastically limit access to contraception by calling into question these medically proven health care services that have helped people stay healthy and plan strong families for decades. It would also override many state protections that guarantee access to contraception and other reproductive health services," said Mary Jane Gallagher, President & CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association. "The Bush Administration is once again pandering to the far right and putting low-income and uninsured Americans on the chopping block. We must reject attacks by anti-family planning extremists to limit access to widely used essential health care like contraception. If we do not, it will jeopardize the ability of millions of women and men to have meaningful access to essential family planning services."
"New York has been a leader in providing women access to reproductive health care, particularly contraception," New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. "These draft regulations would trample that historic commitment to women's health. They are the product of an administration that time and again shows that it values political ideology over the health and wellbeing of the American people."
The Bush Administration's proposed rules would allow health-care providers to classify many common forms of contraception as "abortions" and therefore to refuse to provide contraception to women who need it, even when states have laws on the books to ensure access to contraception. Under these proposed rules, health insurance plans could disregard state laws that require covering prescription medications and prescription contraception by claiming contraception is abortion. Women would watch their contraceptive coverage disappear overnight. In addition, New York is one of 14 states with laws guaranteeing access to emergency contraception but under the proposed rules, a hospital administrator could refuse to offer it. The woman who has survived an assault would now be at risk of becoming pregnant - denied the care she wishes at her hour of greatest need.
When these draft regulations came to light this week, Senator Clinton joined with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) in calling on HHS Secretary Michael O. Leavitt to stop these ideology-driven plans.
Senator Clinton has long been an advocate for improved family planning. She fought to expand and protect Title X funding and championed The Prevention First Act, which would make family-planning services more accessible for low-income women. It expands Title X funding, improves education about emergency contraception, ensures government-funded sex education programs provide medically accurate information about contraception and would end insurance discrimination against women. Senators Clinton and Murray successfully led the fight to secure a FDA decision on the over-the-counter sale of Plan B emergency contraception after more than three years of Administration delay. Senator Clinton has also introduced the Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies (CARE) Act to ensure that hospitals receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid funding can inform rape survivors about emergency contraception and provide it upon request, and the Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act to make emergency contraception more broadly available at military health care facilities.
The text of the Senators' letter to Secretary Leavitt follows.
Secretary Michael O. Leavitt
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
Dear Mr. Secretary:
It has come to our attention that the Department of Health and Human Services may be preparing draft regulations that would create new obstacles for women seeking contraceptive services.
One of the most troubling aspects of the proposed rules is the overly-broad definition of "abortion." This definition would allow health-care corporations or individuals to classify many common forms of contraception - including the birth control pill, emergency contraception and IUDs - "abortions" and therefore to refuse to provide contraception to women who need it.
As a consequence, these draft regulations could disrupt state laws securing women's access to birth control. They could jeopardize federal programs like Medicaid and Title X that provide family-planning services to millions of women. They could even undermine state laws that ensure survivors of sexual assault and rape receive emergency contraception in hospital emergency rooms.
We strongly urge you to reconsider these regulations before they are released. We are extremely concerned by this proposal's potential to affect millions of women's reproductive health.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
Senator Patty Murray