This week, the feminist blogosphere has been freaking out. Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, sent out an e-mail on Sunday beginning with the words, “Yesterday was brutal.” People are contacting their senators en masse. You know what this means: another congressional infringement on reproductive rights.
With the passage of H.R. 3962, or the Affordable Health Care For America Act, in the House, people are celebrating another step closer to the end of the health care reform gridlock. But the step away from gridlock has come with a price: an amendment added to the bill prohibiting federal health care subsidies for abortion.
What’s an American citizen to do when forced to choose between the rights of women and the health care reform we so desperately need? Is getting universal health care worth throwing the rights of women under the bus?
According to The New York Times, many Democrats think so, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
“To save the health care bill she had to give in to abortion opponents in her party and allow them to propose tight restrictions barring any insurance plan that is purchased with government subsidies from covering abortions,” the Times reported. These “tight restrictions,” even more draconian than the Hyde Amendment, are known as the Stupak-Pitts Amendment.
Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak is the anti-abortion Democrat responsible for organizing the amendment. By doing so, he is essentially stating he prioritizes health care reform over the rights of a majority of our citizens (yes, women count as citizens).
Although Pelosi is a strong proponent of reproductive rights, she also understands we need this reform ASAP. I don’t agree with her decision, which contributes to the war of attrition against health care for women (and yes, abortion counts as health care), but I can understand her rationale considering what’s on the line.
But Stupak wasn’t faced with the complicated task of choosing reform over rights. Being anti-abortion, protecting the rights of women is far from his mind.
Interestingly enough, anti-choice representatives on the Republican side aren’t entirely happy about the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, either. Its weakness and occasional vagueness may prevent it from sticking around. People like me would be happy about that, of course. But the people for whom health care reform is about limiting choice based on gender and socioeconomic factors want a stronger amendment. Talk about a shit-show.
At least we know that the representatives who are interested in maintaining and expanding the rights of women haven’t given up. In a letter to Pelosi, 41 House Democrats promised to vote against the bill if the anti-abortion amendment remains intact, with more reportedly being canvassed. “We will not vote for a conference report that contains language that restricts women’s right to choose any further than current law,” the letter said.
Though that’s heartening, bear in mind that these representatives aren’t looking to further reproductive rights – as much as the right fears that this is the goal of their leftist, feminist, socialist agenda.
These representatives are just trying to maintain what we already have. Considering they may have to stand up against the influence of people like Bill Clinton, who said of the issue, “It’s not important to be perfect here. It’s important to act, to move, to start the ball rolling,” they have a tough row to hoe. What does Clinton mean when he says “the perfect is the enemy of good?” That “good” is an America in which the reproductive rights of women are under siege?
What’s an American citizen to do?
HALEY DAVIS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.