Friday 8 August 2008

US administration gets cold feet on abortifacient birth control

The US administration seems to be getting cold feet on defining certain types of birth control as abortifacient. A draft directive on medics' conscientious objection mentioned the provision of drugs and procedures that terminate human life "before or after implantation". Mr Mike Leavitt, health secretary, now says that what people saw was an early draft that he'd not yet looked at. This draft: "contained words that lead some to conclude my intent is to deal with the subject of contraceptives, somehow defining them as abortion. Not true." He goes on to say that the proposed measure – which would withdraw funding from institutions which would not comply – is mainly about conscientious objection.

Well, yes. It is. No-one disputes that. Where there may be a misunderstanding is on what contraception is. As many of my readers will know, some types of birth control may be both contraceptive and abortifacient. Hormonal pills and intrauterine devices are like that. And the draft directive goes out of its way to mention human life from conception – it doesn't just talk about surgical abortion.

Mr Leavitt seems to have come under pressure from the population control lobby after the text was allegedly leaked. However, he shouldn't be tempted to back down. Pro-life medics will have conscientious problems with providing any drug, device or procedure that terminates human life at any stage.

Mr Leavitt is quoted as saying: "The Bush Administration has consistently supported the unborn." He's right; that government has done some good things at home and abroad. Now, in its last months, it can seal its legacy by ensuring that American medics can, without fear of retribution, refuse to take part in any action, direct or indirect, that threatens unborn children, regardless of their developmental stage.