Bush Attempts to Define Embryo as Person

The Bush Administration is attempting to restrict women’s reproductive rights and embryonic stem cell research by offering protections to embryos in research programs, according to the Los Angeles Times. The recently revamped charter for the federal advisory committee that addresses the safety of research volunteers states for the first time that embryos should be considered human. The charter states that the committee will focus on “pregnant women, embryos, and fetuses,” the Washington Post reported. “This could be the next step in according embryos new legal rights and the status of the person under the law,” Marcy Wilder, a former deputy general counsel of Health and Human Services, told the Post “We’re seeing the politicization of what should be a scientific advisory committee.” Although the members of the committee have not yet been named, officials at Health and Human Services revealed that they hope to appoint Mildred Johnson, a medical doctor who helped found the anti-abortion National Right to Life Committee, according to the Post. The Bush Administration took earlier steps to establish personhood for embryos and fetuses when the Department of Health and Human Services extended health care benefits to fetuses rather than pregnant women through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) in September. The Bush Administration later withdrew its support for extending similar benefits to pregnant women, claiming that the regulation defining fetuses and embryos as “unborn children” from the time of conception was meant to give more pregnant women prenatal care. However, women’s groups like the Feminist Majority are concerned for the coverage of pregnant women with illnesses such as cancer, anemia, toxemia, and diabetes. In addition, pro-choice groups 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.


Washington Post 10/30/02; Los Angeles Times 10/30/02; Feminist Daily News Wire

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