Surprising absolutely no one, the Bush administration told the vast majority of the population that uses or has used contraception that we can fuck off, and that we are dirty whores* who deserve a dressing down from perfect strangers that are supposedly hired to provide service. In fact, the administration responded to complaints from over 200,000 letter writers by tossing two fingers, by keeping the proposed regulations and adding contractors to the list of people who can obstruct you if you want contraception, sterilization, or abortion.
I assumed that the Bush administration would do this. They don't care about justice, rule of law, the desires of the electorate, or basic morality when it comes to any other issue, so why break with tradition on this? I wrote this column last week figuring that Bush would stick by these HHS regulations not only out of contempt for the American people, but also because they wanted to embroil the Obama administration in a fight with the Christian right as soon as possible. The more I think about it, the more worried I am about this, because these regulations seem like a perfect "compromise" position. Consider that most people's idea of acceptable regulations of abortion and other reproductive health services (as well as rights like marriage) are those that allow them personally to have sex as they see fit, but that might control someone else they feel is less deserving. Since these regulations enable oppression to be conducted on a much more individual basis, it might be easy for a lot of people to think, "Well, obviously the religious people won't try to interfere with my rights, since I'm obviously a good, deserving person." Then again, the huge outcry over this regulation may mean that I'm worried about nothing.
One thing that should have everyone up in arms is this.
One of the rule's more disturbing provisions is the announcement that Title X family planning funding will now be open to grantees who refuse to counsel women on the availability of abortion. Title X has always required that when a woman tests positive for pregnancy, she must be counseled on all of her options, including abortion, and given referrals based on what her expressed interest. The regulations state that Title X funding will be granted "non-discriminatorily" to applicants, including those who refuse to provide counseling and referral for abortion.
In other words, they created a loophole that will drain money from actual medical service providers to crisis pregnancy centers that provide no real service to speak of. I covered the ins and outs of crisis pregnancy centers here:
[vimeo http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=2271052&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1 expand=1]
RH Reality Check: Crisis Pregnancy Centers from RH Reality Check on Vimeo.
This is insanely dangerous. Crisis pregnancy centers do not provide contraception (most in fact feed you the same lies about how condoms will kill you), cancer screening, STD testing, or any kind of medical care at all. Most don't have anyone on staff with medical training of any sort, and those that do usually only have a volunteer sonogram technician who can show you a picture of what's in your uterus and maybe give you some idea of how far along you are, but can't do anything else. Administering a pregnancy test is a "medical service" in the same sense that taking an aspirin is. Most crisis pregnancy centers don't even have the blood test, just the urine stick one you can buy for $10 at a drugstore.
Of course, every dollar of Title X spending moved from providing contraception to providing finger-wagging lectures about how condoms give you cancer (or whatever lies they're telling to scare you off basic health care) is a dollar we're spending to increase the abortion rate. I was fascinated by right wingers who were trying to create an outrage over the fact that Planned Parenthood---really all abortion providers---will use the occasion of abortion to counsel women on contraception and prescribe the birth control pill. They're getting increasingly transparent---for all that they claim to hate abortion, they're apparently furious that the abortion rate is as low as it is. After all, every packet of pills pressed into someone's hand means that's one more woman who won't be seeking an abortion that month, and while abortion isn't as good a punishment for being a sexually active woman as forced childbirth, it's a sight better than not getting punished at all.
Luckily, there's already a bill written to overturn this ridiculous rule change. I think Congress needs to take this up pretty much immediately; there's no reason to force the Obama administration to go through a multi-month process that would deprive women of contraception.
*Both men and women are eligible for getting the "you dirty whore" dressing down for seeking out sexual health services that the provider decides he doesn't want to give, but we can probably safely assume women will get it more.