The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) just released their 2018-2022 plan, which unequivocally states that life begins at conception and deserves protection. In the introduction it says,
“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.”
The draft mentions conception five times total. The overwhelmingly pro-life stance in the draft is welcome news to many.
The debate over the personhood of unborn children has been a central issue of the abortion debate. Ever since Roe v. Wade in 1973, pro-life advocates have been trying to establish constitutionally protected rights for the unborn. In the ruling’s majority opinion, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote that Roe v. Wade would collapse if “the fetus is a person.”
In support of the HHS’s draft, author and bioethics expert Wesley J. Smith wrote, “life ‘beginning at conception’ … is a fact of basic biological science.”
Compared to previous drafts, this new plan is overwhelming friendly to religious organizations as well. It includes 40 references to “faith-based” organizations and upholding their rights, compared to only three references in the Obama administration’s HHS plan.
This draft is consistent with earlier released interim rules the HHS released to protect Americans’ right to conscience, specifically those who have “a religious or moral objection to paying for health insurance that covers contraceptive/abortifacient services.”
The draft also includes a phrase that seems to be against assisted suicide. The phrase “conception to natural death” is in in the draft three times; “a core component of the HHS mission is our dedication to serve all Americans from conception to natural death.”
Smith wrote, “Despite the scientific accuracy, expect the usual suspects to be furious about the proposal.”
He is right, of course. The news was met with backlash from pro-choice advocates and news organizations.
Susan Berke Fogel, director of reproductive health with the National Health Law Program, a pro-choice, liberal leaning health rights organization, told Politico, “this is license to discriminate.” The Humans Rights Campaign (HRC), an LGBTQ advocacy group also responded with concern that the “plan erases references of minority communities, including the LGBTQ population.”
This draft was finalized before Tom Price’s abrupt departure earlier this month amid reports that he used taxpayer funds to fly privately on government business. The department still boasts pro-life friendly faces, including Teresa Manning, former lobbyist for the National Right to Life pro-life.
While this draft is good news for pro-lifers, it is not set in stone yet. The document is still a draft and is open to public comment until October 27, 2017. If approved, the draft will replace the Obama administration’s previous five-year plan.