Here's a multiple choice question for you...Which of the following is the best source of information on reproductive medical terminology?
B. The National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine) Medical Encyclopedia
C. The Association of Reproductive Health Professionals
D. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Senator Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis (R-Fairfax, wife of Republican Congressman Tom Davis) picked A, Dictionary.com. Rather than trusting in medically accepted definitions for medical terminology, Devolites-Davis used Dictionary.com as her source of a definition of "contraception" during floor debate this week in an effort to stop Senator Mary Margaret Whipple's (D-Arlington) Birth Control Protection Act (SB456) from passing the Senate as written.
HUH? Dictionary.com as a source of definitions of medical terminology? Has the rejection of science and education gone this far? Read the full story past the jump, and ACT TODAY!
By her careful and partial selection from among several definitions of contraception from Dictionary.com, Senator Devolites-Davis blurs the line between abortion and contraception. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Senator Devolites-Davis said, "Knowing that this body does not have this great acumen in defining words, it seems logical we should use definitions used over and over."
Most English language dictionaries correctly list a series of definitions for any word. They chronicle how a word is used in common speech. But using "how a word is used over and over" when drafting legislation is not appropriate. Common desktop dictionaries are neither definitive sources for medical terminology nor are they accurate sources for legal terms.
But scientific and medical authorities including the NIH, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals define the beginning of pregnancy as the implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus, and "contraception" is anything that prevents pregnancy by preventing ovulation, preventing fertilization (joining of egg and sperm) or preventing implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus.
Senator Whipple's bill simply makes clear that methods of contraception that prevent ovulation, prevent fertilization, or prevent implantation are not abortion, since abortion ends a pregnancy, and no pregnancy exists if implantation has not occurred.
But Senator Devolites-Davis ignored the definitions of contraception used by medical science, turned to Dictionary.com as her source of definitions of medical terminology, and has now introduced an amendment to Whipple's bill that removes Whipple's medical terminology, specifically the wording that refers to implantation.
By using imprecise and non-medical terminology, the Devolites-Davis amendment drastically narrows the definition of contraception and, in doing so, will restrict women's access to contraception if it passes the Senate.
Whipple's bill reads:
"contraception" means the use of any process, device, or method to prevent pregnancy, including steroidal, chemical, physical or barrier, natural or permanent methods for preventing the union of an ovum with the spermatozoon or the subsequent implantation of the fertilized ovum in the uterus.
The Devolites-Davis amendment would strike Whipple's medical terminology and replace it with much more imprecise terms:
"contraception" means intentional prevention of conception or impregnation through the use of various devices, agents, drugs, sexual practices or surgical procedures.
By avoiding a medical definition of how contraception prevents pregnancy, the Devolites-Davis amendment essentially makes the HB456 useless as a way to protect access to oral contraceptives and emergency contraception in Virginia.
SB456, as originally drafted, is important because there are many legislators in Richmond who are working to restrict access to contraceptives for Virginia women or blur the line between contraception and abortion in an effort to restrict both. Dick Black from Loudoun County calls contraceptives "baby pesticides" . Mark Cole wants to give fertilized eggs constitutional rights. Robert Marshall has introduced a bill this year that would make it a felony to give birth control to a teen involved in statutory rape and has fought to prohibit Virginia colleges from distributing emergency contraception to students.
But the vast majority of Virginians, Republican and Democratic, pro-choice and pro-life, support access to contraceptives.
The vast majority of Virginians don't consider the oral contraceptive pill to be a "baby pesticide", and and most Virginians know that the best way to reduce abortions is not to ban them, but to reduce unplanned pregnancy through use of contraceptives. The vast majority of Virginians support access to all safe methods of contraception. We just need to respectfully let all Senators know we want them to stand with the vast majority of Virginians, and that we'll be watching closely to see how they vote on Monday.
If you believe Virginia women should have access to all safe methods of contraception, three actions are needed TODAY:
1. Call and email your senator to respectfully urge him/her to reject the Devolites-Davis amendment to SB456 on Monday.
2. Call and email to respectfully urge your senator to vote in favor of SB456 on Monday. If they're already signed on as a patron, thank them.
3. Spread the word!!! Send an email to your friends, post this on your blog or discussion board, etc.
Voting on this bill takes place in the Senate tomorrow, Monday. ACT NOW to make sure your Senators know your opinions on the bill. If you write or call Senate offices, please be polite and respectful in registering your views on the bill. This will be a very close vote, and the bill needs bipartisan support.