Health and Education, Policy Updates

“Beginning with Conception”: Why Definitions Matter

by Eme Crawford on Oct 27, 2017

Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released their strategic plan that included the definition of life as “beginning with conception.”

This is a troubling inclusion for many reasons.

We should each have the ability to answer the question of when life begins based on our own beliefs, values and faith tradition.  It is not something that should be dictated by the federal government, especially when doing so could decrease or deny the availability of reproductive healthcare.

Policies that attempt to define conception as the beginning of life creates a legal dilemma for any doctor who needs to provide medical care to a pregnant woman if that care might endanger an ongoing pregnancy.  A woman should have the right to make decisions about her own health care with her doctor and family, without government intrusion.  These policies would also take away support or coverage for emergency contraception, an important tool to support people to prevent unintended pregnancy if they face a contraception failure or if they survived a sexual assault and want to be able to avoid becoming pregnant as a result of this violence. There are also fertility treatments that assist couples who want to build a family that would no longer be supported in federal health programs if this change were to be made.

In addition to the possible impact on reproductive health care, it is also very concerning that this expanded definition could be used to punish women based on pregnancy outcomes.  An alarming number of women in recent years have been arrested, prosecuted and jailed for losing their pregnancies or as a result of complications. This new policy could make it that much worse.

The federal health department should be working to eliminate barriers to health care and support women and families in our community, not pushing policies that will have negative and even harmful consequences.

WREN will continue to fight against similar so-called personhood efforts at the South Carolina Statehouse and will keep members updated on how you can help inform decision makers about the consequences of passing similar policies.

Click here for more information on the HSS strategic plan and here for WREN’s fact sheet on “personhood.”


« Back to Blog