WASHINGTON – In a development that has drawn ire from abortion supporters and praise from pro-life groups, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has affirmed in a new document that life begins at conception and that improving healthcare in America includes the unborn.
The Department’s recently-released draft of the agency’s strategic plan for fiscal years 2018-2022 includes language expressing a commitment to caring for unborn children.
“The mission of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (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,” the plan’s introduction says.
Immediately following the opening paragraph, the agency states its commitment to care for all Americans, including the unborn.
“HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception,” the strategic plan’s introduction states.
In two other instances, the proposed HHS plan for 2018-2022 references life beginning at conception.
“A core component of the HHS mission is our dedication to serve all Americans from conception to natural death,” says the opening statement of the agency’s “Strategic Goal 3.”
“The research pursued under this strategic goal is to be conducted consistent with the understanding that human subjects [sic] protection applies to all human beings from conception to natural death,” reads “Strategic Goal 4.”
The draft also mentions the agency’s commitment to caring for children who are not yet born.
“While we may refer to the people we serve as beneficiaries, enrollees, patients, or consumers, our ultimate goal is to improve healthcare outcomes for all people, including the unborn, across healthcare settings,” the opening paragraph of “Strategic Goal 1” says.
The HHS updates its strategic plan every four years. Although the previous edition of the department’s strategic plan mentioned “life span,” “every stage of life,” and “between life and death,” it made no mention of caring for the unborn or life beginning at conception.
OB/GYN Dr. Jen Gunter drew attention to the document in a blog post on Monday. Gunter, who is a supporter of abortion, criticized the references to life beginning at conception as unscientific.
“It’s concerning because HHS isn’t just a theoretical group that writes think pieces no one reads,” she said in an interview with ThinkProgress. “We are replacing science with beliefs.”
However, others lauded the HHS for affirming the dignity of the unborn.
“Each life is a gift from God. Encouraged to see @HHS recognize that life begins at conception,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz said in a tweet.
“The change might be five little words, but its meaning is deep,” wrote Live Action’s Nancy Flanders. “It signifies that at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services knows and accepts the truth, that life begins at conception (fertilization). Pro-life activists have said it for decades, scientists have proved it, and abortion supporters have denied and flat-out ignored it, but it’s true: life begins the moment a new human life is created—at fertilization.”
The HHS draft strategic plan is open for public comment through October 27.