It’s not surprising that with large numbers of Republicans elected to Congress, we’re seeing major assaults on reproductive rights. What is shocking is how aggressive and heartless they are. A new bill, which has a good chance of passing, will deny abortion services to rape survivors; cut abortion care from private insurance policies; and remove exceptions for abortions that preserve a pregnant woman’s health.
The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”, which is sponsored by vocal anti-choice republican Chris Smith, does the following:
-Re-defines rape. As it stands, federal dollars do not cover abortion, except in instances of rape, incest or a threat to the pregnant woman’s health or life. This bill requires that the rape exception only cover “forcible” rape – so if you’re 14 and you’re impregnated by your 30-year-old “boyfriend,” that’s not really rape and you’d better start saving up your allowance if you want to terminate the pregnancy. “Forcible” isn’t defined in the bill — if you’re drugged and then raped, that might not count, since there wasn’t force involved. There’s also an incest exception, but only for minors — so if your father rapes you and you’re 18, too bad.
-Removes exceptions for the woman’s health. This bill allows federal funds to cover abortion if a physician certifies that the pregnancy will kill her, but allows no exceptions for the pregnant woman’s health. So if, for example, continuing a pregnancy will damage the woman’s kidneys so badly that she’ll need to be on dialysis for the rest of her life? Too bad, that’s not life-threatening.
-Requires that the government continue to fund entities that discriminate against women and endanger women’s health. The text of the bill reads “A Federal agency or program, and any State or local government that receives Federal financial assistance (either directly or indirectly), may not subject any individual or institutional health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” So health care facilities can not only refuse to provide abortions, but can also refuse to refer women out for abortion coverage — even, I assume, if it’s an emergency situation and the woman’s health or life is on the line — and the federal government cannot withdraw funds. This is particularly troubling when the term “abortion” is being regularly re-defined to include even birth control and emergency contraception. It’s already law that doctors and nurses don’t have to provide elective abortions, and that health care facilities are not required to offer abortion services. But this bill gives any health care provider full reign to discriminate when it comes to reproductive care. If, for example, you’re a rape victim and you go to the emergency room of a Catholic hospital, not only does that hospital not have to offer you emergency contraception, but they can also refuse to refer you to a hospital that does. We’ve seen how this can play out — in Arizona, a nun who worked on a hospital’s ethics committee was excommunicated when she allowed an abortion for a woman who would have died without one. This bill seeks unprecedented protection of health care entities that refuse to provide a full range of health care for pregnant women.
-Cuts tax benefits to any organization or individual that selects an insurance policy that covers abortion. As it stands, most private insurers cover abortion care. This bill, though, cuts tax subsidies that are given to small business owners if those business owners select insurance plans that cover abortion. The same is true for individuals who purchase insurance. This bill would virtually ensure that private insurance companies drop abortion coverage — even where abortions are medically necessary.
This is very, very bad. So we’re organizing an opposition. Here’s what you can do:
-Contact your representatives. You can find them here. Tell them that this bill is unconscionable. Tell them that re-defining rape in “pro-life” terms is disgusting and cruel. Tell them that disallowing funding for abortions to preserve a woman’s health is horrifying. Tell them that the federal government shouldn’t be encouraging private insurance companies to offer less coverage.
-Spread the word. Yes, there is a Twitter hashtag — #DearJohn. You can also tweet directly @JohnBoehner. I tend to look at Twitter campaigns with a bit of a jaundiced eye, but this bill is so outrageous that ringing the alarm through social media could do some real good. Anti-abortion measures like this one tend to get branded as simply no longer allowing taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion (see, e.g., the name of the legislation). But that’s not what this is about at all. This is about targeting rape survivors whose rapes weren’t violent enough to please Chris Smith or John Boehner. It’s about deciding that lasting physical damage to a woman’s body isn’t enough to merit an abortion. It’s about blocking businesses and individuals from selecting insurance policies that cover all of their necessities. Keep that message going, loudly and in public.
-Put some fire under the feet of the bill’s co-sponsors. Here they are. Let ‘em have it. Tell them exactly what it is that they’re sponsoring (and tell everyone else, too).
Sady has more about how we can mobilize. So let’s get on it.
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