The Bush Administration and a Florida congressman made proposals last week that most reasonable people might think will help pregnant women and their babies, but in the era of abortion politics are seen by some as a "threat" to abortion rights.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson proposed classifying a developing baby as an "unborn child." That would give low-income women access to prenatal care under the State Children's Health Insurance Program, a law enacted during the Clinton Administration. Currently, CHIP covers only born children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-third of the 4 million American women who give birth every year experience some kind of complication related to their pregnancy. Prenatal problems among the poor are especially acute and those poor women who do not address them frequently cause harm to themselves and their babies.
Pro-abortion extremists who believe no child has an inherent right to live until it has fully emerged from the woman's body (and some not until they are given a test that would measure the newborn's physical and mental health), believe that the Thompson proposal is a backdoor attempt to undermine Roe vs. Wade and restrict "a woman's right to choose."
They are on shaky ground with this argument because the proposed care would go to women who have already made the choice to give birth. If choice is the Holy Grail of pregnancy, how can "pro-choicers" oppose better prenatal care for poor women who want it for themselves and the babies they have chosen to have?
Also last week, Rep. Cliff Stearns, Florida Republican, announced plans to introduce legislation to help pregnancy resource centers acquire ultrasound machines so that pregnant women might see what is growing inside them. Many abortion clinics have such machines but, according to women with whom I have spoken, doctors turn the screen away so they cannot see the image. Several studies of pregnancy resource centers with ultrasound machines have found that nearly 90 percent of abortion-minded women choose to have their babies after seeing the shape and movement of the child in their wombs.
Abortion-rights groups oppose Stearns' bill. Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt says, "They're using medical technology as political propaganda." How is it propaganda to allow a woman to see inside her womb? What Planned Parenthood has been saying about the unborn being unhuman is the real propaganda. The truth is in the picture, which is what the "pro-choice" Feldt doesn't want women to see.
Besides, doesn't the very word "choice" presuppose that there is more than one? Because technology exists today that was not available in 1973 when Roe vs. Wade was decided, doesn't it make sense that pregnant women should have access to information that would help them make a fully informed choice?
Federal law mandates that most food packaging contain consumer information. Federal law requires information stickers on cars.
Banks must give certain information to women who apply for loans.
Shouldn't the law also support the right of women to see the "contents" of their wombs and receive information about the abortion procedure and alternatives?
The proposals by Thompson, which require no congressional action, and Stearns' bill, do nothing to restrict a woman's "right to choose."
Opposing these measures exposes the real extremists in this debate. For them, abortion has become a sacrament. Anything that might lead women to decide to give birth, instead of abort, is regarded as somehow diminishing women. In fact, it is abortion that has diminished women and the entire culture because it cheapens life and leads to a disregard for other lives and relationships.
The Thompson and Stearns proposals will empower women and the babies they are choosing, or might choose, to have. Only pro-abortion zealots, like Gloria Feldt, will oppose them. Apparently Feldt fears that a fully informed woman might make a different choice than the one she would make. But isn't that for other women to decide?