President Bush's "final gift" to the anti-choice camp took the form of a proposed regulation within the Department of Health and Human Services that would disallow hospitals and family planning clinics from refusing employment to or terminating the employment of employees that worked against the clinic's mission by refusing to provide abortion referrals, refusing to prescribe or fill a prescription for hormonal contraception, and refusing emergency contraception even to rape victims. The proposal also increases CPC funding and redefines many common methods of birth control as "abortifacients."
The current HHS secretary is Michale Leavitt, and he was all game for the proposal. Tens of thousands of pro-choice groups and individuals nationwide (including CPC Watch) voiced their opposition to the proposed regulations during its official response period. However, as the events of this year's presidential election guided our vision outward, our sighs of relief may have turned out to be preemptive.
According to CNN, Presidential-Elect Barack Obama has chosen former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle to replace Leavitt this January. As "Health Czar," Daschle will be in charge of orchestrating Obama's healthcare plan.
He will also be able to regulate things like reproductive health, family planning, and of course, restrictions on abortion. Though commonly praised for his visions on healthcare reform, Daschle is hardly a champion of reproductive justice. Daschel voted yes on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act that gives human rights to fetuses and the medically-unsound "Partial Birth Abortion" ban. He holds a 50% rating from NARAL. DNS Chairman Howard Dean, doctor and healthcare reformer, was also on the short-list for HHS secretary and holds a proud 100% NARAL rating.
It's difficult to say these things without being accused of being "too picky." After all, coming from eight painful years under Bush and his anti-choice, anti-woman cabinet, Daschle might seem a fine replacement to some. He's certainly no Leavittt, and is a supporter of Roe. But in these times of economic disparity, massive unemployment, bunk sex education, and patriarchal control, we must ask clearly, is Roe enough? Is simply accepting abortion rights within the first trimester with absolutely no guarantee to access and affordability all we're going to ask of those who have sworn to represent us and protect our rights?