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Published: 10/2/2004

Bush is pro-life? Not according to policies

By ROSE RUSSELL

IT'S too bad that many pro-lifers' passion lasts about as long as they can get and keep pregnant women out of abortion clinics. Then, their interest in women and the children they give birth to often vanishes.

Pro-life President George Bush's policies on children epitomize the point. Previous presidents' policies that have benefited children have disintegrated in this administration.

Pediatricians in Washington earlier this week said Bush policies on children and families are the "wrong prescription." An example is that the administration nearly dismantled one of the most successful children's programs ever: Head Start.

For four decades Head Start has helped prepare low-income preschoolers for school. But the Bush Administration proposes cuts that could mean 62,000 fewer children will benefit by 2009, and therefore close some preschool sites.

Noted pediatrician and author Dr. T. Berry Brazelton of the Harvard School of Medicine and Dr. Renee Jenkins of the Howard University Medical School joined others to object to the Bush policies.

"We need to ask ourselves: What are we doing to the next generation if we don't back them up now?" Dr. Brazelton asked. "A recent report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation showed that children in the middle don't get preventative health care, and one out of seven of them has a preventable disease. We can't afford that economically as a nation and the families certainly can't afford it. We've got to think about children and families in this country first."

That was undoubtedly a dig at Mr. Bush's efforts in Iraq. Meanwhile, more than 30 doctors, plus several past presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics, signed a statement that condemns the President's policies on children.

And while it only makes sense to provide pregnant women pre-natal care, the doctors say no such promise from the White House exists. The group also criticizes the President on the subjects of preventive child health services, medical treatment for acute and chronic illnesses, and the much-needed training for pediatric health professionals and medical research. They also take umbrage with the administration because it has made no commitment to obtain health insurance for the 8 million children who have none.

Further emphasizing their point, the group stated that during 2002 and 2003, some 27 million children had no health insurance at one time or another. It maintains that the President's tax and budget policies have added to the states' budget woes, forcing states to slash children's programs. In Texas, 150,000 children have had no health insurance coverage since they were dropped from the state's health insurance program. Indeed, the doctors say the Bush proposal for tax credits and deductions would reduce the number of uninsured, but by only 5 percent.

The administration also intends to begin cutting a supplemental nutrition program, Women, Infants, and Children, in 2006. If that happens, nearly half a million fewer low-income women and children will be in WIC in 2009 - stark proof that some pro-lifers' interest ends when a woman decides not to have an abortion.

After four years, benefits to and for children have clearly eroded. So the doctors are forced to look elsewhere for support for children's issues, and they are looking to Sen. John Kerry.

"The Bush Administration's policies are moving us away from effective and long-standing federal commitments that improved the health of children, commitments proudly initiated and supported by previous Republican and Democratic presidents. If not reversed, these ill-advised tax and budget policies will erode decades of hard-won health gains for children, while still leaving unaddressed such critical problems as child abuse, mental health, and alcohol and other drug abuse," their statement reads. "We embrace Senator Kerry's straightforward goal: every child, indeed every American, should have the same affordable health care that is available to every member of Congress and senior government official. Our children and our families deserve no less a commitment from their next president."

It's a shame that Mr. Bush trumpets pro-life, then forgets about, ignores, and diminishes policies to improve a child's life. If Mr. Bush is pro-life, he must ensure that his policies are, too.



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