In the Bush administration’s latest covert effort to appease the religious right, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a regulation Friday that defines human fetuses and embryos as children. This regulation, due to take effect in November, allows states to extend health care benefits to fetuses rather than pregnant women through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP).
This is the first time “any federal policy has defined childhood as beginning at conception,” according to the Washington Post. The regulation goes so far as to allow the fetuses of illegal immigrants to receive health care benefits under the program because they eventually will be born American citizens – while excluding pregnant women who are undocumented immigrants.
Legislation that would instead extend S-CHIP funding to pregnant women was approved by the Senate Finance Committee earlier this year. Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, emphasized the need for this legislation to move its way to the Senate floor for a vote. “It would rectify this very simply and in the light of what has happened we would urge that legislation to move forward very quickly,” Feldt told the Post.
The effects of the regulation, the extension of health care benefits to fetuses, are estimated to cost $330 million over the next five years. However, it is unknown how many states will take advantage of it.