Bush Proposal to Change Abortion Definition

Democrats argue Bush administration changes would limit access to contraception.

ByABC News
February 18, 2009, 2:49 PM

July 17, 2008— -- Congressional Democrats are criticizing the Bush administration for a draft proposal they say would change the definition of abortion and limit women's access to contraception.

The draft proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which began circulating around Capitol Hill earlier this week, would withhold government funds from health-care providers and organizations that don't hire people who refuse to perform abortions or provide certain types of birth control.

It immediately incited an uproar from leading Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

Sens. Clinton and Patty Murray, D-Wash., warned in a letter to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt that the proposal has the "potential to affect millions of women's reproductive health."

"One of the most troubling aspects of the proposed rules is the overly-broad definition of 'abortion,'" write Clinton and Murray. "This definition would allow health-care corporations or individuals to classify many common forms of contraception including the birth control pill, emergency contraception and IUDs 'abortions' and therefore to refuse to provide contraception to women who need it.

"As a consequence, these draft regulations could disrupt state laws securing women's access to birth control. They could jeopardize federal programs like Medicaid and Title X that provide family-planning services to millions of women. They could even undermine state laws that ensure survivors of sexual assault and rape receive emergency contraception in hospital emergency rooms," they write.