If we're talking recent assails on women's health, it's easy to feel like balls are flying at our noses faster than in one of Ms. Stoeger's tennis classes. So just in case you missed the latest smack to the face: The newest draft of the Department of Health and Human Services's strategic plan for the next four years contains an add-on establishing that life begins at conception.
The HHS strategic plan is updated every four years in order to zero in on the administration's priorities for the next term.
The introduction for the old plan, under Obama, read, the "HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving Americans at every stage of life."
The updated 2018-2020 version now states, "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."
Why are these three words such a big deal? Why should we be "alarmed," as Dr. Jen Gunter, an ob-gyn, wrote in an op-ed for the Cut?
"If a fertilized egg is defined as the start of life in the final draft of the HHS plan, this could have sweeping and devastating consequences for everyone, and not just women," writes Dr. Gunter. The HHS has a budget of $1 trillion and controls all the major healthcare players—Medicaid, Medicare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Indian Health Service—and oversees how medicine is studied and provided to our country as a whole, she points out. The ideology reflected in this language means a fertilized egg and a woman will share the same priority, warns Dr. Gunter.
What would happen if the HHS prevented Medicaid from covering costs associated with abortions or IUDs?
Could the National Institutes of Health be refused funding to find breakthroughs in contraception research?
Could Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides so many services other than abortion—including pelvic exams, Pap tests, HIV testing and treatment, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for vaginal infections—be defunded once and for all?
Dr. Gunter tells us to be prepared, and we probably should've guessed this blow was headed our way long ago. Trump announced last year that Marjorie Dannenfelser would be leading his campaign's national "pro-life coalition," and their goals included banning abortion after 20 weeks and removing taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, should it continue to provide abortion services. Furthermore, Dannenfelser is the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an organization that seeks to end abortion in the U.S., and told the Telegraph that the SBA List opposes some forms of birth control—including IUD coils and the Plan B pill. Could it be a matter of time until her two professional agendas become one?
If you're raging, drop the HHS a note here before October 27, please!