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.
- Abortion and Health Care: Is there common ground? by Jill August 10, 2009
- The Abortion Compromise in the Senate Health Care Bill by Jill November 19, 2009
- #DearJohn: The GOP Seeks to Re-Define Rape and Restrict Reproductive Health Care by Jill January 31, 2011
- Today, I just can’t. by Jill December 9, 2009
- The abortion “compromise” by Jill December 19, 2009