After extending health care benefits to fetuses under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in September, the Bush Administration is withdrawing its support for extending similar benefits to pregnant women, the Associated Press reports. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) claimed that the regulation defining fetuses and embryos as “unborn children” from the time of conception was meant to give more pregnant women prenatal care, according to AP. But now with the Bush/Thompson ruling, there are serious concerns for the coverage of pregnant women with illnesses such as cancer, anemia, toxemia, and diabetes.
Pro-choice groups, including the Feminist Majority, are also concerned that the Bush Administration is in fact trying to establish independent rights for fetuses in an effort to ultimately overturn Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose abortion. This argument is supported by the fact that HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson has acknowledged that under his regulation, “gaps remain” in the number of health services pregnant women would be able to obtain, according to Reuters.
The Senate has been considering a bill that would give states the option of providing pregnant women with a wide range of health care, including prenatal and postpartum, which is not covered in the HHS regulation, according to Reuters. Twelve Senators, led by Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), sent a letter to Thompson yesterday criticizing the Bush Administration’s lack of support for the Senate bill. Bingaman has put a hold on the nomination of Bush Health Policy Advisor Mark McClellan for commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration until Thompson responds to the letter.