care helps fetuses and women
By Serrin Foster / Special
to The Detroit News - 02/13/02
A recently proposed improvement
in access to health care for low-income women should be celebrated. Instead,
it is being opposed by individuals and organizations who say they have
women's interests at heart. What's really going on here?
The U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services (HHS) has proposed a change to an existing program
to allow states to expand prenatal care, labor and delivery services for
women who are uninsured but not eligible for Medicaid. An estimated 10.9
million women of childbearing age do not have health insurance. This change
to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) will enable states
to provide for the health needs of pregnant women who might otherwise
not receive care.
It is well documented that
prenatal care can improve the health outcomes for both mothers and children.
Yet the United States has high rates of infant mortality, premature delivery
and low birth weight compared with other developed countries. How are
we different? Here, most uninsured women lack access to prenatal health
care because they cannot afford the out-of-pocket expenses.
Feminists for Life believes
no woman should be denied essential health care simply because she is
pregnant and poor. It has long advocated replicating New York state's
implementation of SCHIP, which includes prenatal care. The proposed change
by HHS is a quicker, more comprehensive means to that end.
The current version of SCHIP
allows states to provide health care coverage to targeted low-income children
under the age of 19. With the change, states could provide coverage for
children starting from conception. This is consistent with the policies
of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which states that the "physical
and psychosocial growth, development, and health of the individual begins
prior to birth when conception is apparent and continues throughout infancy,
childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. ... The responsibility of
pediatrics may therefore begin with the fetus and continue through 21
years of age."
The expanded SCHIP would give
many women who are not eligible for Medicaid the resources to deliver
healthy children. Equally important, pregnant women at risk of complications
would receive the medical treatment they need and deserve.
Sounds like a great thing
for women, right? Not according to pro-choice advocates on abortion, many
of whom would describe themselves as feminists. Their complaint is that
because the proposed change recognizes the humanity of the unborn child,
it threatens women's rights.
By this logic, anything that
benefits a pregnant woman who chooses to give birth comes at the expense
of women's rights. Prenatal care is not the only benefit that has fallen
victim to this approach. Access to ultrasound technology and legal remedies
for pregnant women who are injured or killed are two other examples.
A recent fund-raising letter
for the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL),
opposing the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, said the act "would
be the first federal law ever to recognize a zygote, blastocyst, embryo,
or fetus as a separate person." The letter does not mention that
opposing this legislation could deny grieving women legal remedies for
the loss of their unborn children.
Pro-choice advocates have
also opposed legislation that would give more women access to the benefits
of ultrasound technology by providing funding for pregnancy care centers
to purchase ultrasound equipment.
NARAL President Kate Michelman
said, "It never fails to amaze me how little respect they have for
women's capacity to understand what goes on inside our bodies. I faced
a crisis pregnancy after having three children, and I didn't need anyone
to tell me that my pregnancy would result in giving birth to a person."
If she did not wish to see
her own unborn child, that was her choice. The issue is that NARAL seeks
to deny other women access to this "window on the womb."
For years, pro-choice advocates
have been pitting women against their unborn children, dehumanizing the
growing child with clinical terms and obscure phrases like "blobs
of cells" and "products of conception." Fetus is a Latin
word meaning "young child" or "young one."
But in practice, the fetus
is becoming a clinical, dehumanized term for an unborn child. Imagine
if some group tried to deny medical care for gravidas. Once someone figured
out that was the Latin word for pregnant women, the bewilderment would
quickly shift to outrage.
Perhaps this semantic game
is an effective strategy for promoting pro-choice abortion rights. But
it also denies pregnant women information and resources they need and
deserve to make a choice other than abortion.
Serrin Foster is president
of Feminists for Life of America, a Washington, D.C. group. Write letters
to The Detroit News, 615 W. Lafayette, Detroit, Mich. 48226, or fax to
(313) 222-6417 or send e-mail to email@example.com.