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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Bush administration plan to define several widely used contraception methods as abortion is a "gratuitous, unnecessary insult" to women and faces tough opposition, Sen. Hillary Clinton said on Friday.
The former Democratic presidential candidate joined family planning groups to condemn the proposal that defines abortion to include contraception such as birth control pills and intrauterine devices.
It would cut off federal funds to hospitals and states where medical providers are obligated to offer legal abortion and contraception to women.
"We will not put up with this radical, ideological agenda to turn the clock back on women's rights," the New York senator told a joint news conference with New York Rep. Nita Lowey, also a Democrat, at Bellevue Hospital.
"Women would watch their contraceptive coverage disappear overnight," said Clinton.
The planned rule is aimed at countering recent state laws enacted to ensure that women can get contraception when they want or need it. It also would help protect the rights of medical providers to refuse to offer contraception.
Clinton said she has written a letter with Patty Murray, a Democrat senator from Washington, to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt asking him to reconsider and reject the release of the proposed rules.
She also urged people to sign a petition on her website, www.hillpac.com, against the proposed changes.
"Our first effort is to get the Bush administration to rescind the regulation, not issue in its current form," Clinton said. "If that doesn't succeed, we're going to be looking for legislative steps that we can take to prevent this regulation from ever going into effect."
A copy of a memo that appears to be an Department of Health and Human Services draft provided to Reuters this week carries a broad definition of abortion as any procedures, including prescription drugs, "that result in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation."
Conception occurs when egg and sperm unite in the Fallopian tubes. It takes three to four days before the fertilized egg implants in the uterus. Several birth control methods interfere with this, including the birth control pill and IUDs.
"If enacted, these rules will make birth control out of reach for some women. That's a sure way to guarantee more unintended pregnancies and more abortions," said Anne Davis of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Eric Beech