You likely heard that the Trump Administration recently launched an attack on birth control under the guise of religious liberty. But you may have missed another, less publicized threat to reproductive health care.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a draft of its Strategic Plan for the next five years. Through this Plan, the Department aims to reframe its mission by defining life as "beginning at conception" and explicitly prioritizing the religious and moral beliefs of some over everyone else's health care.
Some of the draft's lowlights include:
"A core component of the HHS mission is our dedication to serve all Americans from conception to natural death"
"...our ultimate goal is to improve healthcare outcomes for all people, including the unborn, across healthcare settings."
"identify and remove barriers to, or burdens imposed on, the exercise of religious beliefs and/or moral convictions by [HHS partners], and affirmatively accommodate such beliefs and convictions"
HHS is accepting comments on the proposed plan through Thursday, October 26th. Legal Voice and our allies are raising our voices to object to this systemic attack on women and other vulnerable populations. Will you raise your voice, too?
Copy the sample text below (and add to it if you have more to say!)
Submit your comments to HHSPlan@hhs.gov
Encourage others to raise their voices as well. Forward this email to friends and family, or share our Facebook post
This Administration continues its relentless attacks on our rights, but we will not be silenced. Now is the time to act.
Sample comment on HHS Draft Strategic Plan FY 2018–2022:
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Department of Health and Human Services' draft Strategic Plan. While I admire the Department's goals to enhance the health and well-being of people in this country, there is specific language in this draft that I believe will have negative implications for reproductive health.
It concerns me that HHS is inserting concepts such as "the unborn" and life "from conception" into its strategic plan. These concepts run contrary to medical evidence and standards of care, and instead reflect one particular religious point of view that has no role in advancing and protecting the public health of a diverse population. Elevating a fertilized egg to equal status with a person is contrary to U.S. law, deprives people who can become pregnant of critical health care, and establishes a policy framework that undermines the ability of women and others to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. In the Department's quest to remove barriers to the exercise of religion, it is actually erecting barriers for some of our country's most vulnerable populations.
Further, religion and conscience are not limited to those who support the idea of life beginning at conception. In fact, the vast majority of patients have religious and conscience needs and wishes that are not served using that limited framework. In order to fulfill the person-centered strategy laid out by HHS, patients require medically accurate, evidence-based, unbiased comprehensive health care services so that they can use their own decision making capacity to choose health care services that comport with their individual morality and circumstances. This means that reproductive health care servicesincluding hormonal contraception, sterilization, and pregnancy termination—must be available to all who desire those services in accordance with their own individual beliefs.
Patient-centered health care means prioritizing every patient's needs, without judgment. I urge you to remove all instances of biased concepts from the final language of the Strategic Plan, including in lines 60, 114, 846, 1142, and 1342. Thank you for your attention to these concerns.
Your Name (optional)
*Thanks to National Health Law Program (NHeLP) for providing a robust analysis of the draft strategic plan and the basis for this sample comment.