Saturday night, by a five-vote margin, the House of Representatives passed health care reform legislation. It’s an incredible victory — Americans desperately need health care reform, and this bill is a step in the right direction. It means that millions of uninsured and under-insured people will be able to go to the doctor when they get sick, and will be able to get treatment when they need it. It means an end to gender-based insurance ratings; it means an end to listing pregnancy, c-section, rape and domestic violence as pre-existing conditions; it means maternity coverage. Those are fantastic victories.
But they came at a price — and as usual, women paid. As Ann put it, It’s pretty fucking cramped underneath this bus, what with 50% of Americans down here. The Stupak amendment to the health care bill, which blocks even private insurance companies from covering abortion services, passed — with 64 Democrats supporting it. You can read their names here. Thirty-nine Democrats voted against health care reform. The majority of those Democrats also voted for the Stupak amendment.
That’s right: There were 21 Democrats who voted to kill the health care bill, but who also voted for an anti-choice amendment to attach to that bill. If any Democrats need to be taken out in the next primary cycle — besides Stupak — it’s these 21.
I’m happy that a health care bill passed in the house. But checking my email Saturday morning and getting word about the Stupak amendment felt like a gut-punch. Spending the afternoon listening to the floor debates, and then watching the votes tick in, was sickening. I don’t envy Nancy Pelosi’s position, and I don’t actually fault her for putting the amendment up for a vote — but I do fault the anti-choice Democrats who voted for it. I especially fault Rep. Stupak, who is a Democrat himself. It’s one thing to be a pro-life Dem who supports lowering the abortion rate through contraception access and sexual health education (oh, and comprehensive health care reform), but who doesn’t need to punish women. It’s quite another to sponsor a bill that strips health care from women in the name of “pro-life” politics. Of course, Stupak and his co-sponsor, Joe Pitts, are no strangers to compromising women’s lives in the name of life:
The amendment, named for Representatives Bart Stupak, D-Mich, and Joe Pitts, R-Penn. Stupak is a so-called “Democrat for Life;” Pitts has been a dogged supporter of failed abstinence-only policies, domestically and internationally, and was among those who succeeded in adding language forbidding the provision of contraceptive supplies for HIV-positive women in US global AIDS funding.
Bravo, really guys.
Reproductive health care is health care. And thanks to spineless, misogynist Democrats, women are not going to get the care they need. Beyond that, this is just another example of a party reliant on women to win elections throwing women under the bus as soon as our needs become inconvenient. As Ann says:
[Liberal dudes will] be explaining that it’s not a big deal because the Stupak amendment can be stripped out by the conference committee (which I very much hope it will, but am not holding my breath) and because there are potential loopholes (though I have yet to hear a convincing one).
On some level, I don’t care about the nitty-gritty details of this amendment. This isn’t just about how the money is allocated or what workarounds exist. This has me so incredibly infuriated because it further segregates abortion as something different, off the menu of regular health care. It is a huge backward step in the battle to convey — not just politically, but to women in their everyday lives — that reproductive health care is normal and necessary, and must be there if (or, more accurately, when) you need it.
This also sets apart women’s rights from the Democratic/progressive/whatever agenda. As something expendable. But fundamental rights for women are not peripheral. They are core. And not just because of so-called “progressive” values. In a political sense, too: Seeing as how the Democratic party relies on women voters to win elections, you would think they would have come around to this no-brainer by now.
Yes, we got hosed.
I’m also not confident that this will be taken out. For that to happen, the Senate could not include the same restrictions in their version of the bill — and with Democrats like Bob Casey and Ben Nelson in the Senate, and with pro-choice senators like Claire McCaskill shrugging their shoulders, I think the chances of similar language not being adopted is slim. White House reaction has been mixed — first they sounded like they weren’t touching this one with a ten-foot pole, but now Obama has issued a statement saying that women’s insurance choices shouldn’t be restricted.
Who knows — maybe this will all work out. But that doesn’t negate the fact that 64 House Democrats voted for the Stupak amendment; it doesn’t negate the fact that a Democrat introduced it; it doesn’t negate the fact that a whole lot of liberals looked the other way.
But what’s really chapping my hide today — almost as much as the amendment itself — is the number of “progressive” dudes who have lectured me in the past 24 hours on How This All Works, and the number of progressive dudes who have just stayed silent. I’m apparently not the only one. Thanks, guys. Glad to know that women’s health care isn’t really health care, or isn’t part of the “big picture.”
So what can we do? A few things. Put pressure on your senator to only support a health care bill if it maintains the legal status quo on abortion — that’s especially important if you live in a state with an anti-choice or middling senator. Find out how your representative voted on Stupak and call their office, either to thank them or to tell them that you’ll be supporting a pro-choice democrat in the next primary. Call Stupak’s office at 906-863-2800: Tell him that you will be supporting a pro-choice primary challenger, and that you’re appalled at his amendment. Donate to the National Network of Abortion Funds — they’re needed more than ever. Sign this letter to Nancy Pelosi.
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