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Public Statements

Health and Human Services Rule

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES RULE -- (Senate - July 23, 2008)

Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court carefully crafted the Roe v. Wade decision to serve as the balanced foundation on which the reproductive rights of women could rest. Now, in 2008, the Bush administration is making a late-stage power grab based on a foundation of flawed ideology.

A flawed ideology that has the potential to harm millions of American women.

Today, I join many of my colleagues in telling this administration that their ideology has no place in the health care system that American women depend upon.

Last week, it came to my attention that the Department of Health and Human Services is circulating a draft regulation that would jeopardize the reproductive health of women and their fundamental freedom of choice.

Studies show that the use of family planning reduces the probability of a woman having an abortion by 85 percent. But this rule could severely limit a woman's access to these family planning resources by adopting an alarmingly broad definition for the term ``abortion.''

This definition would allow health care professionals to classify contraceptives like birth control pills, intra-uterine devices, IUDs, and emergency contraceptives as ``abortions.'' Based on this classification, health care professions could refuse access for women who need these resources.

As such, this proposal would greatly increase the chances of women encountering hospital and clinic staff who would prevent them from receiving the information they need to make thoughtful, personal decisions about their health, and may even refuse to write prescriptions for basic birth control.

Fundamentally, this Bush administration proposal undermines everything we have worked to achieve in the last 35 years.

It could endanger access to birth control and upend the federal title X family planning program. In 2006 alone, title X provided family planning services to approximately 5 million women and men through a network of more than 4,400 community-based clinics.

It could endanger State laws and regulations like the one in my State that require equitable coverage for contraceptives under insurance plans that cover other prescriptions.

And it could even endanger a sexual assault or rape victim's access to emergency contraception in a hospital emergency room. An unimaginable thought for the millions of American women every year who turn to emergency contraceptives following a traumatic event in their lives.

Seventy-six percent of voters strongly support doing everything we can to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies through commonsense measures.

This is an assault on a common goal of preventing unintended pregnancies and reducing the number of abortions in this country.

And it is unacceptable.

For the millions of women across this Nation, I strongly urge this administration to reconsider their stance and put reproductive health above partisan politics and ideology.

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