The pro-life case against birth control, nursing, and exercise.
Note that the authors described this effect as "protection" despite the fact that they worked for a Catholic university. This illustrates the urgent need for specific regulatory language with regard to breast-feeding. Technically, the current HHS draft proposal would guarantee the right to withhold breast-feeding products or assistance, since it defines abortion as encompassing "any other action … that results in the termination of the life of a human being" prior to implantation. Catholic health providers, however, specifically endorse, promote, and facilitate breast-feeding despite its abortifacient risks. Employees of such providers who cannot in good conscience engage in these activities require specific protection from coercion by Catholic authorities.
In addition, millions of Americans in the food-service industry face the threat of discrimination if they decline to participate in the provision of caffeinated beverages to women of childbearing age. Earlier this year, the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology published a study showing that "an increasing dose of daily caffeine intake during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of miscarriage." The evidence suggests that drinking 10 ounces of coffee per day could double the probability of miscarriage.
It is not sufficient to protect the right of food-service personnel to refuse caffeine to women who are visibly pregnant. Pregnancy is not externally visible until well into gestation. Nor is it sufficient to protect caffeine refusal to pregnant women only. The stated purpose of the draft proposed regulation is to protect human beings prior to implantation—in other words, prior to pregnancy. As mentioned above, there is no way to determine, prior to implantation, whether a woman is carrying a newly conceived human being. Therefore, to avoid the theoretical abortifacient risk, employees must be guaranteed the right to refuse caffeinated beverages to any woman who appears to be of childbearing age.
Furthermore, millions of Americans presently work at gyms, swimming pools, parks, or other recreational facilities where they may be required to encourage or collaborate in exercise by women. Research published last year in a British journal of gynecology demonstrated that, as with caffeine, "exercise early in pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage." Again, to avoid abortifacient risk in women who are not yet pregnant, the draft regulation must guarantee the right to withhold any collaboration in exercise by women of childbearing age.
Thank you for your steadfast pro-life efforts and for expanding the definition of abortion to include any activity that results in the termination of human life prior to implantation. This expanded definition will save the lives of more and more unborn human beings as we advance from conscience protections to legal restrictions on abortion. As research uncovers additional causes of miscarriage or preimplantation embryo loss, I look forward to further legislation against caffeine consumption, exercise, and other abortifacient activities among premenopausal women.
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.
Photograph of breast-feeding mother by George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images.