Opinion: Carolina Beat

No. 622: Day of Reckoning Is Coming for Feminists

November is going to be a tough month for feminists. A federal rule change that allows states to consider fetuses as “unborn children” is causing more than the usual fuss and furrowed brows for groups such as Planned Parenthood and the National Partnership for Women and Families. Scheduled to take effect next month, the rule will make unborn children eligible for health-care services under the federally funded State Children’s Health Insurance Program for children in low-income families.
In North Carolina the program is known as NC Health Choice for Children. State Health and Human Services officials aren’t sure whether or when the program will adopt the unborn-children rule, or what action would be needed for it to take effect.
The federal rule change turns babies into…. well, babies. And that’s the rub for most feminists. To them, unborn babies aren’t babies. Shouldn’t be babies. Can’t be babies. You see, if they admit unborn babies are more than a mass of cells, the legal and psychological house of cards they’ve built around Roe vs. Wade will come tumbling down.
No matter the merits or beneficiaries, any rule or program that poses a real or perceived threat to Roe vs. Wade is an instant target of “pro-choicers.” Several groups contend the new rule advances a back-door antiabortion agenda of the Bush administration, a charge denied by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. He said the goal is to expand prenatal coverage to poor women who don’t qualify for Medicaid. Maybe so, but pro-choicers correctly point out that states already can expand prenatal coverage under current CHIP rules by applying for a waiver, making the unborn-child designation unnecessary, in their view.
Clearly there are important issues to be discussed here, and we should all welcome the debate. But some of the arguments emanating from feminists cause many observers to doubt they can rise above their traditional emotion-laden scare tactics. For example, Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt described the new rule as “a weapon against women.” The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League has actually suggested the rule can be dangerous to women’s health, citing a number of scenarios, it contends, would pit mother against child and ultimately deny a woman medical treatment.
Fetal surgery, NARAL said, could be beneficial to the child but risky to the mother, pressuring women to undergo chancy procedures. What if a woman needs treatment or medications that might adversely affect the baby, they ask. And what if a woman can’t get an epidural during delivery because technically she’s not the patient, they wonder.
These are questions worth considering, but it seems part of the feminist strategy is to what-if this change into oblivion. I have trouble believing there would be no hope of a rational solution for both baby and mom under any of these circumstances. Fact is, every day doctors face delicate balancing acts with some pregnant women and their babies. Common sense tells us the unborn- child definition can’t cure every conceivable nightmare scenario. Difficult ethical situations are bound to occur. Always have. Always will. That’s life.
What feminists fail to understand is that their abortion-rights-trump-everything tunnel vision creates bad public policy and threatens to deny poor mothers a service they desperately need. It’s a no-brainer that healthy babies are a good thing, and this policy change will deliver healthier children into the world.
The new rule has backed feminists into an intellectual and rhetorical corner and instead of responding with thoughtful discussion, they’ve resorted to the same old Stepford-like mantra that the unborn are nothing more than a mass of cells.
Give it a rest, ladies. We’re smarter than that. Customers of fetal-portrait studios, a growing industry that provides 3D and 4D ultrasound photos, aren’t buying pictures of cells. They’re buying the first images of the children they already love.
Most feminists I know are smart women, yet they refuse to admit the obvious: Babies are wonderful, joyful creations. It’s not a slap in the face of women’s rights to admit this simple yet profound fact. I don’t recall any woman excitedly showing me the sonogram of her cells. I never went shopping for the perfect gift for my girlfriend’s cells. And I didn’t cry with my sister over the miscarriage of her cells.
As the policy debate heats up and states decide whether to enroll unborn children in their programs, we’ll find out whether feminists are willing to sacrifice prenatal care for low-income moms out of fear it may work against abortion on demand. Then we’ll know who to look to for concrete answers to issues affecting women’s health, and who to rely on for tired, outdated rhetoric.