May 24, 2024

Trump’s health department takes a pro-life turn

A new strategic plan defends life from conception to natural death

The new strategic plan for the US Department of Health and Human Services has accomplished the impossible — getting progressives to hanker for the good old days of the Bush Administration.

Every four years the HHS publishes its plan for comment. This one, if approved, will run from 2018 to 2022.

What caught the eye of journalists was a revision of the HHS mission statement. This now reads “HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception.” It also uses phrases like respecting “the inherent dignity of persons from conception to natural death” and “the value of healthy marriages”. “Birth control” and “contraception” are not mentioned at all. These have set off alarm bells for progressive policy wonks. “This is [a] preamble to the Handmaid’s Tale,” wrote Dr Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN and a pain medicine physician, on her blog.

Even the Bush Administration was tamer and did not use “such overt anti-abortion language,” according to Think Progress.  

“Conception and natural death — that’s not the legal standard for anybody,” Kathleen Sebelius, the former head of HHS under Obama, told Vox. “There are states that allow assisted suicide. This does not seem to recognize the law.”

The strategic plan does not have the force of law, but it will guide policies at government agencies. It is obviously being used to reward the President’s pro-life supporters.

“The argument that life begins at conception has long been used by socially conservative activists to attack birth control access,” said Adam Sonfield, of the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights group. “It could now form the basis of a new wave of attacks against publicly funded family planning services, for instance, by attempting to redirect funding to entities that do not offer the full array of birth control methods.”

The draft strategic plan is open for public comment through October 27.

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