Bush Plan: Health Care for Women by Default

(WOMENSENEWS)-President Bush has expanded a health-care program for children to include pregnant women-because he says states should now consider the fetus an “unborn child” eligible for government-funded care.

In states that adopt the plan, which was announced Thursday, women will be eligible for prenatal and delivery care under the State Children's Health Insurance Program. In its current form, the program generally does not cover pregnant women or mothers' post-partum care, The Associated Press reported.

“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,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. “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.”

But supporters for abortion rights characterize the move as an underhanded means of establishing the fetus as a person with legal rights. They fear Bush's plan will make it easier to criminalize abortion.

“If they're interested in covering pregnant women, why don't they talk about pregnant women?” said Laurie Rubiner of the National Partnership for Women and Families. “I just have to believe their hidden agenda is to extend personhood to a fetus.”

The policy will take effect only after it is published in the National Register and the Health and Human Services department considers comments from the public.