Barefoot and "pre-pregnant"

Tue May 16, 2006 9:43 PM EDT

The Washington Post reports (somewhat belatedly) that the CDC is asking all to women treat themselves as "pre-pregnant," regardless of whether they're currently trying to conceive.

Among other things, this means all women between first menstrual period and menopause should take folic acid supplements, refrain from smoking, maintain a healthy weight and keep chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes under control.

Set aside, for a moment, the incredibly offensive implication that all women are nothing more than incubators who should remain healthy not because it's good for them, but because it makes for healthier babies. And note that even though the report's first recommendation is that "each woman, man and couple should be encouraged to have a reproductive life plan," it never calls on the government to encourage contraceptive use. Which is, uh, pretty important for family planning.

Funding for Title X family-planning clinics, which serve more than 5 million women, hasn't kept pace with inflation. And a growing uninsured population means the demand for Title X services is likely to increase. It's not surprising that unplanned pregnancies are on the rise among low-income women. The report's authors do acknowledge that many women lack access to adequate reproductive health care, but they tell women to "manage risk factors" rather than admonish government officials who have cut funding for these programs.

Just a guess, but maybe we'd have healthier newborns if the government spent more time reducing unplanned pregnancies and less time telling women to stay away from lead paint and cat feces.

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