Health Care Bill Sidelines Women’s Reproductive Rights

Pro-choice majorityThe news of a health care bill making its way through the house yesterday turned out to be a giant failure. Yes, the bill includes a public option. The bill encompasses a plethora of other much-needed benefits as well, however; the religious right, along with a slue of spineless democrats, managed to push through the Stupak Amendment, effectively sidelining women’s reproductive rights in favor of a bankrupt political agenda.

The provision would block federal subsidies for insurance companies that cover abortion procedures. Such a restriction threatens to deprive women of access to vital health care services. In addition, it would eliminate any incentive for insurance companies to provide abortion services. They would be forced to give women’s health the axe in favor of qualifying for federal subsidies. Insurance companies will do anything to compete in a newly expanded market of subsidies, which inevitably means that women would lose coverage for abortion.

You can start by thanking The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. They took it upon themselves to assume a primary role in attaching abortion restrictions to the health care bill. Apparently Catholic Bishops are running our country now. Who knew. The antichoice lobby, with support of the Catholic Bishops, made it very clear this past weekend their willingness to stop at nothing to ensure the implementation of their bankrupt values, which happen to be shared by very few Americans. What we witnessed on Saturday night was nothing short of an exploitation of the democratic party’s vulnerabilities. Allowing one of the most publicized and influential bills to pass through the Senate without eliminating the severe crackdowns on women’s autonomy, will have devastating consequences for women’s health.

If the electorate continues to value the right to choose as a bargaining chip to be sacraficed when things get tough, women’s lives are in serious danger. Constitutional protection of reproductive rights will not secure access to abortion in this case. The Stupak Amendment will be a significant set back in federal law, sending a clear message that this country does not value reproductive self-determination. Here is a list of a few restrictions included in the amendment.

1. It effectively bans coverage for most abortions from all public and private health plans in the Exchange: In addition to prohibiting direct government funding for abortion, it also prohibits public money from being spent on any plan that covers abortion even if paid for entirely with private premiums. Therefore, no plan that covers abortion services can operate in the Exchange unless its subscribers can afford to pay 100% of their premiums with no assistance from government “affordability credits.” As the vast majority of Americans in the Exchange will need to use some of these credits, it is highly unlikely any plan will want to offer abortion coverage (unless they decide to use it as a convenient proxy to discriminate against low- and moderate-income Americans who tend to have more health care needs and incur higher costs).

2. It includes only extremely narrow exceptions: Plans in the Exchange can only cover abortions in the case of rape or incest or “where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death.” Given insurance companies’ dexterity in denying claims, we can predict what they’ll do with that language. Cases that are excluded: where the health but not the life of the woman is threatened by the pregnancy, severe fetal abnormalities, mental illness or anguish that will lead to suicide or self-harm, and the numerous other reasons women need to have an abortion.

3. It allows for a useless abortion “rider”: Stupak and his allies claim his Amendment doesn’t ban abortion from the Exchange because it allows plans to offer and women to purchase extra, stand-alone insurance known as a rider to cover abortion services. Hopefully the irony of this is immediately apparent: Stupak wants women to plan for a completely unexpected event.

4. It allows for discrimination against abortion providers: Previously, the health care bill included an evenhanded provision that prohibited discrimination against any health care provider or facility “because of its willingness or unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” Now, it only protects those who are unwilling to provide such services.

In the status quo, 87 percent of employer plans include abortion coverage. One in three women will have an abortion in this country at least once in their lifetime. The Stupak Amendment seeks to completely marginalize women by excluding them from access to basic health care. In fact, this bill is worth nothing if women are not given the right to make autonomous choices about their bodies. If women don’t have the freedom to determine the outcome of a pregnancy, every aspect of their lives are negatively impacted. If the end result of health care reform does not include reproductive justice, women will be further disenfranchised in the health care system. I just hope the senate will do the right thing and give this amendment the middle finger.

About aj:
Andrew (AJ) is a vehement progressive, youth activist, and reproductive justice organizer. When he's not busy with the movement, you can usually find him dancing in the club or watching trashy reality tv.


  1. It is another example of how reproductive rights is just as much a class issue as it is a woman’s issue. Basically, we will be going back to the days when if you have the money then reproductive freedom is allowed, but if you can’t pay then you’re out of luck.

  2. I completely agree Andrea. This has everything to do with the exploitation of poor women. Rich women are always going to be able to find access to abortion procedures, where as poor women will be completely disenfranchised if this amendment makes its way into law.

  3. “ROME, Oct. 11 — A comprehensive global study of abortion has concluded that abortion rates are similar in countries where it is legal and those where it is not, suggesting that outlawing the procedure does little to deter women seeking it.

    Moreover, the researchers found that abortion was safe in countries where it was legal, but dangerous in countries where it was outlawed and performed clandestinely. Globally, abortion accounts for 13 percent of women’s deaths during pregnancy and childbirth, and there are 31 abortions for every 100 live births, the study said. ”

    So it’s going to happen whether it’s “available” or not.

    If you want to take it from a purely fiscal standpoint, a one time fee for abortion is a whole lot cheaper than the $1000′s of subsidies every month people pay for welfare kids.

    If you want to take it from an emotional standpoint. Raising a kid you can’t afford or don’t want is a whole lot more emotional than an abortion. Giving a kid up for adoption into a system where they are very likely to be abused and passed around like they are subhuman is very emotional. (did you know it’s easy to adopt a kid from overseas than from our own system?)

    If you want to look at it from a “good for society” standpoint, it is better for society to have people who actually feel they were “wanted” than the low self-esteem from knowing you were and unwanted burden to your parents.

    If you want to look at it from a family perspective, if a loving father were in the picture, chances are abortion would not be on the list of “choices” for the mother.

    If you want to look at it from a biblical perspective take a look at what your god ordered in:

    Numbers 31:17
    Deuteronomy 2:34
    Deuteronomy 28:53
    I Samuel 15:3
    2 Kings 8:12
    2 Kings 15:16
    Isaiah 13:16
    Isaiah 13:18
    Lamentations 2:20
    Ezekiel 9:6
    Hosea 9:14
    Hosea 13:16

    If you want to look at what the bible says about causing misscariage look at Ex. 21:22-25

    If you want to look at it from a human perspective, consider that 1 out of 6 people on this planet is currently labeled as “starving”.

    Why are you forcing women you do not want, are not financially capable, are not emotionally capable to have kids.

    Why are you not forcing them to take family planning education and promoting contraceptive use? Condoms would prevent most (if not all) of unwanted pregnancies so the emotional distress of having to choose between having a baby or not, giving it up or not is no longer an issue.

    For everyone who opposes condom use (Especially all catholics) why are you FORCING married couples to have kids if they are not ready for one? THEY are allowed to have s e x aren’t they?

    For anyone who won’t admit people have s e x outside of marriage….GROW UP!!!

  4. Mrs. Mastro says:

    The thing that is the most worrisome about this is that it is basically an IED with the potential to block health care reform completely–something that is especially bad for poor women.

    If the Stupid amendment’s brother/sister/cousin/uncle crops up in the senate version of the bill a good number of senators (rightly) will vote no on the entire bill–which basically throws the baby out with the bathwater. Major score for pro-lifers, nil for progressives.

    If the same mutant relative doesn’t appear in the senate version of the bill, there are a number of senators who will vote no on the entire bill (arguing falsely that the Hyde Amendment isn’t sufficient to keep federal funds from going towards abortion services)–score for conservatives, nil for progressives.

    Add to the abortion issue Lieberman’s promise to block a floor vote if there is a public option in the senate version and we have even more trouble.

    So…my stand is this: If a democratic majority in Congress can’t manage to pass health care reform that doesn’t hurt women’s right to choose–especially with a democratic President–we HAVE to vote Every. Single. One. of Their. Sorry. Asses. OUT! We had better have some progress on this issue or, come 2010, the Mrs. will be working on a national campaign to oust every single congress person that had anything to do with either blocking health care reform or restricting abortion rights, regardless of party. Period.

    And…I must, must, must, beg, plead, urge New Yorkers to oust Lieberman. HE IS NOT A DEMOCRAT!. He needs to be fired.

  5. I completely agree. Lieberman has got to go.

  6. Spineless is right, AJ. What good is a Democratic majority in both houses with a Democrat in the White House if all you’re going to do is pander to the right? Get over it. They’re never going to vote for you. You’re already popular. Everyone doesn’t have to like you. But get your job done and live up to the promises that you made to the people who did vote for you, or they won’t repeat the mistake.

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