Last week, 236 Republican and 15 Democratic members of the House of Representatives voted to make such a horrible situation a reality. The so-called “Protect Life Act” would allow any hospital or healthcare provider that receives government funds to refuse to provide abortion care, regardless of the circumstances. In addition, the act would ban federal funds from going to any healthcare plans that cover abortion services and make it very difficult to prevent funds from going to health organizations that do not support abortion – so hospitals could legally refuse to perform abortions that would save women’s lives.
In addition to giving a big old middle finger to women, the appropriately-yet-depressingly-nicknamed “Let Women Die” bill would override specific laws established to protect pregnant women. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which was passed in 1986, states that hospitals must stabilize a pregnant woman that is experiencing an emergency condition or life-threatening pregnancy is guaranteed treatment, including abortion, from either the hospital that admitted her or, if that hospital objects, from another facility.
On his website, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joe Pitts, writes that “Taking someone’s life because we don’t regard their life as valuable takes the dignity away from our own lives as well.” Yet apparently it’s only fetuses and not women whose lives are valuable and deserving of respect and dignity.
As vile as Pitts may be, it’s equally grotesque that so many members of Congress, regardless of political party, agree with him. How did we get to this place in our society, that the health and life of a pregnant woman is worth so little? No, this isn’t a rhetorical question. When EMTALA was debated and passed in 1985 and 1986, it garnered widespread bipartisan support, and Ronald Reagan signed into law as part of an uncontroversial omnibus budget. For all the advances that women’s equality has made in the last 25 years, in the halls of Congress, it seems that women lose their equality as soon as a sperm or two enter the picture. How long will our politicians be bowing down at the Altar of the Fetus? And how soon can we go back to the future and return to good old 1985? Because much as I’d like to have a child one of these days, I’m really not comfortable with the idea that if anything went wrong, I could pay with my life.
While it would be nice to think that cooler heads will prevail in the Senate, as they often do, President Obama has already said that he will veto bill. So at least this attack on women will die the sweet, merciful death it so richly deserves.
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out saraherdreich.com.