The draft of the 2018-2022 strategic plan of the department of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) just dropped. The mission of HHS is “to enhance the health and well-being of Americans, by providing for effective health and human services and by fostering sound, sustained advances in the sciences underlying medicine, public health, and social services.”

Oh yeah now the mission also includes redefining life at conception. Really. Right on the introduction page.

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After all, these guidelines were probably drafted by Tom Price and Charmaine Yoest, a real life Aunt Lydia, is a Trump appointee to the HHS. Before the election Trump told us he would let the Susan B. Anthony get their faux feminist hands all over contraception and abortion. Remember, the Susan B. Anthony crowd thinks IUDs and emergency contraception are abortifacients. Science says they are not but hey who needs science when you have a bible?


Speaking of bibles, there is a super cool section on how being able to practice your religion, like denying care and imposing your beliefs on patients, will be totally okay now. Obviously, this HHS revamp isn’t just aimed at women wanting birth control.

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Yes, the agency tasked with enhancing the “health and well-being of Americans” now believes that certain religious beliefs are more important than health care. This could apply to contraception, abortion, vaccines, addiction medicine, sexually transmitted infection screening, and transgender care just to name a few.

Ensuring “persons of faith or moral conviction and of faith-based organizations” are able to impose their religious beliefs on others in the name of health care is the exact fucking opposite of science.

Contraception isn’t mentioned at all in the healthier living section. It doesn’t seem to be considered preventable care. HHS can redefine contraception this way.

STI’s aren’t mentioned in communicable diseases.

Conception is again mentioned under strategic goal 3 to let us know this is when life starts. It seems euthanasia for those suffering from incurable and terminal diseases is off the table too as the language mentions supporting people through to a “natural death”

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And of course the term “unborn children” drops along with the role of protecting marriage. Apparently we single moms are trash or something.

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It also seems we are going to help women with addiction during pregnancy with prayer.

I did a quick read through the entire thing. No mention of birth control or abortion. Lots of “faith-based” partnership strengthening.

I don’t know how these errors (and probably others, like I said it was a quick read) get corrected, but if this stands it means health care dollars and government planning will be all based on some non science ideas such as life begins at conception, pre marital sex is wrong, anything but marital sex between cis women and men is wrong, and that God will help those of you or I guess the ones who are not “wicked.”

I’d call this a joke but honestly I can’t find any humor in it at all.

Submit comments.

Call your elected officials.

This is preamble to the Handmaid’s Tale.

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  1. Hmmm. HHS says life begins at conception. Let me think. No.

    What was largely a philosophical concept in Classical days morphed into a theological construct about 2,000 years ago. Some Biblical purists assert that life begins even before conception: after all, didn’t God say to Jeremiah, “I knew you even before you were born,” or something along those lines. A rather romantic concept, if not terribly scientific. Others insist that human life begins at the time of ensoulment — which clerics, depending on their flavor or religiosity, maintain can occur at any time from conception to quickening to when a newborn takes its first breath. Dubious claims, methinks. I rather prefer the Supreme Court definition when, in Roe v. Wade, it concluded that life begins when a newborn can live independently from its mother, which in those days was around 24 weeks of gestation. With that legal opinion, the emphasis shifted from what’s right between a woman and her God, to what’s ethical between a patient and her doctor, to what’s legal. Damn. Clever dudes, those Supremes. And the law is where the abortion debate belongs, IMHO.

    Abortionists are called murderers. Baby killers. Okay, I get that. Protected speech. But let me grant — against everything I hold dear, and just for the sake of argument — that abortion is a form of killing, the taking of a potential human life. My simple answer is, So what? We live in a western society defined by its laws. And the law allows the taking of life in certain well-defined circumstances. For example, in the military. In police work, against some violent perpetrators. In the personal use of lethal force against hell-bent attackers. In physician-assisted suicides. And, of course, in abortion.

    And so, to those Right-To-Lifers out there, go ahead and believe whatever the hell you want about when life begins and killing. I doubt it matters one iota to those doctors who perform abortions. They will continue providing their invaluable service so long as it’s legal.

    And sometimes, heroically, even when it’s not.

  2. The new draft of the strategic plan of the HHS is sadly lacking in addressing many issues, including contraception, although it does do a better, albeit brief, job with substance abuse in Objective F. However your tongue-in-cheek evaluation of the document does slide toward being the propagandistic screed of which you accuse others.
    – [ ] Please do not use the excuse of “ a quick read through of the entire thing“ as an excuse for propagating inaccuracy. It does not say that denying healthcare and imposing your beliefs (religious or otherwise) on others is OK. It acknowledges that people differ in many ways: age, gender, economics, education , religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc. It follows that the right to control your body should apply to all of these groups, and the strategic plan does acknowledge that medical providers are people, too. Just as a woman has the right to her own beliefs, and should be able to choose what she wishes to do with her own body , ie have sex, use contraception…or not, have an abortion, etc, a physician also should not lose that right when she walks through the office door. She should be able to choose not to insert an IUD, or not to do an abortion if, for whatever reason ( it is not always religious!) she feels that act is wrong. I am a board certified ObGyn as well. I insert IUDs (and have used them as well), but please do not legislate that I must use my body to perform an abortion. Also, If a patient chooses to go that way, she should discuss the procedure, possible complications and side effects with the person who actually performs it, the same as with any other medical or surgical procedure.
    You are a talented writer, and I have enjoyed your posts debunking some of the silly stuff out there. Patients will often find the internet comments of an undocumented source more credible than a face-to-face conversation with their own doctor, so I am glad there are some knowledgeable people they can read as well! The Glitter Bomb was a good chuckle. However, whatever you choose to discuss, please do not let your personal bias be a substitute for accuracy in reporting.

    1. Gail, performing abortions is literally your job, or a part of it anyway. It likely isn’t pleasant for anyone performing it or having it, but if you find a key part of your job is something you refuse to do for whatever reason (and which may well lead to someone being denied the healthcare they’re seeking), you simply have to find other work.

  3. The notion that life begins at conception is a religions notion not a scientific one. There should be separation of church and state.

  4. Life does not begin at conception…what would you all save from a burning building if you can choose only one to save: One 5-year-old child or 1000 embryos?

  5. My Congresscon (Chris Collins) is an enthusiastic participant in the War Against Women, so he’s probably all for this.

  6. You can define beginning of life any way you want, long as you let me determine my future life and responsibilities as well as my ability and desire to bear and raise a child.

  7. *shudder* I am not holding funerals for my blastocysts and zygotes that didn’t make it. I had IVF, so I know how many were fertilized, how many failed to make it 5 days, and how many were implanted.

  8. How comforting to know our country is not just turning into an oligarchy but wants to be a theocracy too! One can’t even be outraged anymore, it’s verging on numbness.

  9. What happened to separation of church and state, and Supreme Court decisions such as Roe vs. Wade?

  10. This is preamble to the Handmaid’s Tale.

    From this side of the pond, it sounds more and more like a descent into Gilead every day. Even in the evangelical Reich that is norn iron we don’t get this sort of stuff…or haven’t, yet.

  11. Does this mean that we should also stop “discriminating” against doctors whose perception of their faith/religion supports female genital mutilation? Maybe we should spell out which faiths the government should be supporting too…just to be clear.

  12. Zygotes don’t have brains, nor bones, nor skin, nor functioning internal organs; they are, more or less, blood-clots with potential. Embryos don’t have all of their parts, yet either. So what part are they defining life at Zygote, morula, blastocyst, trophoblast? or is it after orgasm?

  13. I just learned that the stupid woman who wanted mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds before a woman can get an abortion is the Rep. candidate for Lt. Governor here in VA. Grrr!

  14. And how, exactly, do we determine “the moment of conception?”

    Are we going to implant miniature cameras in all females of child-bearing age? Or should we just assume that any woman who has had sex is pregnant until it can be determined otherwise? Life begins at ejaculation?

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