Abortion and Health Care

First, a video:

Second, a must-read article, wherein Jeffrey Toobin discusses not only the implications of Stupak, but the broader problems with marginalizing abortion care:

Throughout this long legal history, the one constant has been that women have continued to have abortions. The rate has declined slightly in recent years, but, according to the Guttmacher Institute, thirty-five per cent of all women of reproductive age in America today will have had an abortion by the time they are forty-five. It might be assumed that such a common procedure would be included in a nation’s plan to protect the health of its citizens. In fact, the story of abortion during the past decade has been its separation from other medical services available to women. Abortion, as the academics like to say, is being marginalized.

Restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion go back to the Hyde amendment, which became law more than thirty years ago; for example, there has long been a ban on abortions under Medicaid or in military hospitals. But the implications of the Stupak amendment are broader, because of the structure of the exchange. To start with, Stupak states that anyone who buys insurance with a government subsidy cannot choose a plan that covers abortion, even if that person receives only a small subsidy, and even if only a tiny portion of the full premium goes for abortion care. And the influence of the amendment reaches beyond the recipients of federal subsidies. Stupak would prohibit the public option from offering any plans that cover abortion. Further, it is expected that each year more Americans will use the exchange, including people who don’t need subsidies, but under the Stupak amendment insurance companies would have no incentive to offer those people coverage for abortion services, since doing so might cost them the business of subsidized customers. Today, most policies cover abortion; in a post-Stupak world, they probably won’t. With a health-care plan that is supposed to increase access and lower costs, the opposite would be true with respect to abortion. And that, of course, is what legislators like Stupak want—to make abortions harder, and more expensive, to obtain. Stupak and his allies were willing to kill the whole bill to get their way; the liberals in the House were not.

The President is pro-choice, and he has signalled some misgivings about the Stupak amendment. But, like many modern pro-choice Democrats, he has worked so hard to be respectful of his opponents on this issue that he sometimes seems to cede them the moral high ground. In his book “The Audacity of Hope,” he describes the “undeniably difficult issue of abortion” and ponders “the middle-aged feminist who still mourns her abortion.” Elsewhere, he announces, “Abortion vexes.” The opponents of abortion aren’t vexed—they are mobilized, focussed, and driven to succeed. The Catholic bishops took the lead in pushing for the Stupak amendment, and they squeezed legislators in a way that would do any K Street lobbyist proud. (One never sees that kind of effort on behalf of other aspects of Catholic teaching, like opposition to the death penalty.) Meanwhile, the pro-choice forces temporized. But, as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg observed not long ago, abortion rights “center on a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.” Every diminishment of that right diminishes women. With stakes of such magnitude, it is wise to weigh carefully the difference between compromise and surrender.

Really do read it all.

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9 comments for “Abortion and Health Care

  1. laura
    November 16, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Fantastic article – thanks for sharing!

    Rich women will always be able to get abortions; they can spending the money to travel to providers. All restrictions on abortions hurt working class and poor women the most.

  2. oldlady
    November 16, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    In April 1989 well over 300,000 women marched in Washington D.C. urging the Supreme Court to preserve their 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, a woman’s right to abortion. Perhaps another march is what we need now.

  3. Kathleen
    November 16, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    argh. Why are they (and Obama looks to be part of the “they” as far as abortion goes) allowed to just invent people for the sake of argument? The “middle aged feminist who mourns her abortion”. How about the real, actually existing thousands of women forced to give up their babies for adoption in the 50s & 60s who still suffer real trauma as demonstrated by actual longitudinal studies instead of made-up anecdotes?

  4. Politicalguineapig
    November 16, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    No, no, they won’t pay any attention to a march. What we need to do is go after mr. blue pill and all it’s friends. Anyone want to help start Feminists against Viagra?
    We have to hit below the belt on this one.

  5. libdevil
    November 16, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    I think we should simply ban all procedures except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the patient. “Sorry, Senator, we can’t set your grandson’s broken arm unless you cut us a check for $4500. If there are complications and his life is threatened, then we can do something.” “I’m sorry Representative, but technically those torn tendons and muscles in your shoulder don’t threaten your life. We know you can’t use your right arm, and you’re in tremendous pain, but unless you have the $40,000 for the surgery, there’s nothing we can do. Insurance is barred by law from covering the procedure.”

  6. Politicalguineapig
    November 17, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Nah, like I said, we gotta hit below the belt. We don’t get anything below the waist, they don’t either.

  7. November 17, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Great post! There’s lots of additional materials on our Web site with the video at http://www.noabortionban.org.

  8. November 18, 2009 at 10:39 am

    On the issue of health care and women’s issues, this time not abortion, what are people’s views about this?

    “After the current changes were announced, Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, included in the following in his comments…

    ‘This is one screening test I recommend unequivocally, and would recommend to any woman 40 and over. With its new recommendations, the [task force] is essentially telling women that mammography at age 40 to 49 saves lives; just not enough of them.'”

  9. Julie
    November 18, 2009 at 11:17 am

    The New Yorker piece is truly a must-read, honored to be packaged with it in the same post.

    For more updates from the Center for Reproductive Rights, follow us on Twitter at @ReproRights!

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