My fellow Americans, the number of American babies who fail to survive their first birthdays, and the even greater number who suffer life-long injury due to the lack of proper prenatal care, is a national disgrace. We are still the most prosperous country in the world, and yet many nations with far fewer resouces have lower infant and maternal death rates. The current economic crisis, where job losses and local government budget problems have cut off the access of so many of our fellow citizens to proper health care, and certain recent incidents of domestic terrorism directed against women’s health providers, have made it not only important but essential that we assume our joint responsibilities as a community and do our best to ensure that every baby in America has the chance to be born healthy and wanted.
As a start towards ensuring a better outcome for our children, while supporting job growth within our communities, I am submitting the Healthy Babies Initiative to Congress. This bill will provide for the establishment and support of prenatal and neonatal health clinics in every state, with the goal of ensuring that no woman will need to risk her health or that of her child because she can’t afford proper care, or because such care is not available within her community. Small neighborhood clinics will be set up with gynecologists, physician assistants, midwives, doualas, and pediatricians to give every woman in America access to information on general health care, birth control, infant health, and reproductive services. Counseling will be provided for pregnant women without sufficient social networks, those who need extra support to carry healthy infants to term and make the best choices for themselves and their newborns, including adoption services when necessary. Counseling will also be provided, and networked with shelters, to enable women threatened by violent partners or family members to escape the cycle of forced pregnancies and maternal and child abuse. Post-natal services, including well-baby care, new-mother training, and vaccinations will be provided for infants under 18 months of age. This will also help identify infants with physical or other deficits, and ensure that the early intervention so essential for the best possible outcome — for example in babies with Downs syndrome, or those born deaf, or autistic — can be started in a timely fashion, so that every baby is given the chance to achieve his or her fullest potential as a future member of the American community.
Larger reproductive health clinics will be set up to provide a full range of medical services to American women of all ages and needs. These clinics will provide more sophisticated prenatal and reproductive services, including fertility treatments and genetic counseling, ultrasounds and sonograms, sophisticated prenatal surgeries and support for problem pregnancies, medically necessary late-pregnancy terminations, as well as maternal, perinatal, and neonatal intensive care units. They will also train the next generation of American doctors, physician assistants, nurses, midwives and counselors to provide the full range of essential services — birth control education, including abstinence; the proper use of contraceptives and after-the-act pregnancy preventatives; proper treatment of rape victims and evidence collection for rape cases; women’s reproductive health, including mammograms and pap smears; the expanding range of infertility options available to those who desperately wish for healthy children, including adoption resources; safe and legal pregnancy terminations when necessary; and a level of childbirth care and newborn health provisions commensurate with the gifts of our great nation.
All these services will be paid for on a sliding scale, with full financial support for those women and their children who would otherwise be denied access to care. But we intend to provide a level of care such that every American woman, whatever her income, will know about all the options available for her and her baby.
Since, unfortunately, a very small number of misguided individuals have misinterpretated the guidelines of our great religious teachers as sanctioning coercion, violence, and murder in order to restrict others’ medical decisions, all of these clinics, large or small, will be provided with full security protection through both local and federal authorities. Funding for such security will be considered part of future federal job creation and support programs. Anyone considering any form of illegal activity directed at these clinics, the service providers who will staff the clinics, the women and their families using these clinics, or the businesses and homes in the vicinity of these clinics, should be aware that such activity will be treated as domestic terrorism and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Where necessary, the human resources required to protect every American woman’s access to reproductive care will be drawn from our enormous pool of highly trained federal agents. This may, at some point in the future, require shifting some funding from the resources currently being used to monitor those forms of widespread surveillance deemed least cost-effective by Homeland Security, or even some reconsideration of penalties and enforcement concerning individual possession or use of those drugs, such as marijuana, now categorized at the lowest levels of potential misuse. But we are too great a nation not to seize this moment and start working towards the great goal of ensuring that every American baby be given the best chance to be born healthy, safe, and wanted. Thank you all, and God bless America.