WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 31, 2002 (Zenit.org).- States may classify a developing fetus as an “unborn child” eligible for government health care, the Bush administration said today, giving poor women access to prenatal care and strengthening the arguments of pro-lifers.
The plan will make a fetus eligible for health care under the State Children´s Health Insurance Program, the Associated Press reported. Because CHIP is aimed at children, it does not typically cover parents or pregnant women.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson cited well-established data on the importance of prenatal care in explaining the proposal.
“Prenatal care for women and their babies is a crucial part of the medical care every person should have through the course of their life cycle,” Thompson said in a statement. “Prenatal services can be a vital, lifelong determinant of health, and we should do everything we can to make this care available for all pregnant women.”
States, which administer CHIP, would have the option of including fetuses in their programs. Doing so would make the mother eligible for prenatal and delivery care.
Abortion activists see today´s action as a backdoor attempt to establish the fetus as a person with legal standing, which could make it easier to criminalize abortion.
“If they´re interested in covering pregnant women, why don´t they talk about pregnant women?” asked Laurie Rubiner of the National Partnership for Women and Families. “Their hidden agenda is to extend personhood to a fetus.”
But a pro-life group, Family Research Council, praised the decision. “All human life should be valued and protected. That includes the health and lives of unborn children,” said council president Ken Connor in a statement. “We applaud President Bush and Secretary Thompson for setting right this past wrong and taking a significant step toward the president´s goal of building a ´culture of life.´”
Thompson said he also backs legislation in the Senate that would allow states to automatically add pregnant women to CHIP, much as poor pregnant women are eligible for Medicaid.