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stupid stupid stupak

December 3, 2009

In early November the health care reform bill in the House, HR 3962, passed (240-194) with the Stupak-Pitts amendment attached. The language of the bill essentially prevents private health care companies from covering abortion services. The public option proposed wouldn’t cover them either, except for in cases of incest, rape or risk of the mother’s health. Now, similar language is being added to the health care reform bill that is about to be on the senate floor. This is a horror. Our representatives and president are already falling pathetically short on developing a health care plan that is anything but a farce, and these amendments are just adding insult to insult.

Any limitation to abortion access is egregious to women’s rights and women’s health on multiple levels. According the Guttmacher Insititute, 35% of women will have an abortion before the age of 45. Right wing and anti-choice zealots would have you believe that this is a symptom of a degenerating society, but the abortion rate is actually decreasing. This means that the burden of a procedure that is relatively common will fall into the pocketbooks of women. Women are already financially burdened with the cost of most forms of birth control available (of these some of the most effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy in the first place—i.e. the IUD and tubal ligation—are systematically denied to young, unmarried women who are deemed too young or irresponsible to make their own decisions).  This costly procedure (currently over $450) is just another way that women (who, by the way, are systematically paid less than men a woman making just $.78 for each $1 that a man makes for the same work) are kept an underclass through financial inequality. The language of the Stupak amendment serves to keep women’s rights at bay, violating our bodies while simultaneously trying to make us too poor to fight back.

The money issue on an individual level will lead to a money issue on an organizational level in such a way that much-needed women’s health services will decline across the board. Remember why our mothers and grandmothers fought so hard to make abortion legal? It was because women were DYING getting back-alley abortion procedures. Without coverage, more women will need to turn to women’s clinics such as Planned Parenthood, which are already reducing their services due to a lack of funding. (By the way, the first things to go in these scenarios tend to be mammogram screenings and health education services).  As these resources deplete, back-alley abortions will be back in full force. Further, the same old inequalities will be reproduced: women with money can purchase abortions, women without money will put their health at risk or have unwanted children—driving them into even more dire financial straights.  The senate and the house are chipping away at abortion rights, by starting with the least privileged classes—poor (often minority) women. They did this first by limiting abortion in the proposed public option and they are trying to solidify the deal by getting private companies to stop covering abortion if a health care reform bill is passed.

Finally, the language of “exceptions” opens the back door for additional injustice. Exceptions for incest, rape and a woman’s health are given for the illusion that women’s interests are being considered, but the exceptions create a scenario where anyone other than the woman in need of an abortion procedure gets to control her body. In a country where religiously dictated morals guide politics, what level of “risk” will a woman be expected to endure? Will she be expected to be a martyr? Who will decide if incest or rape occurred? Will women need to stand trial or force their abusers to? If women stand trial will it actually be their character that is put on trail, as is currently the case in so many rape cases? Will a panel hear the woman’s story and decide if she is believable? Who will sit on this panel? Any of these scenarios will lead to victims being victimized twice—once by their abusers and again by an abusive system. In language that might reach those assholes whom are passing this bill, another unfortunate outcome will be that some men might also become victims, as claiming rape might become the only way to receive a safe and affordable abortion. I am sure this last scenario will be less common than the scenario of women dying of back alley abortions or women being forced to have the children of their abusers, or women having their health taken as second to that of the fetus, but I thought it’d bring it up since women’s rights don’t seem to have any sway in the current political climate.

In the abortion debate our government has never come down on the side of women. Roe v. Wade is only a precedent that gives women a right to privacy. It does not give any woman the right to manage her own body (look at the language of Roe v. Wade, it is actually the doctor’s choice which is privileged). The idea of giving women rights has been systematically rejected by our society and our government; women have no legal guarantee of an abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment has not passed, women graduate from college at higher rates than men but are less likely to hold positions of power in major corporations and the government.

These amendments to the health care reform bill would have us believe there are women out there who want to do nothing but sit around all day trying to get pregnant so they can have abortions. No one is pro-abortion, but lots of us are pro-choice and pro-rights. If the government seizes the right to control the bodies of one group in society, that groups loses power. The health care reform bills were originally intended to provide equal access to health care, but the Stupak amendment takes access to health care away from women and maps inequality onto our bodies.

For more information on how to contact your senator or get active, visit the  Planned Parenthood Action Center.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. vegtastic permalink
    December 3, 2009 9:38 pm

    As far as I understand, women will have the same access, and abortion rights as they ever did. However the state will scrutinize funding. Being a HUGE supporter of ZPG I would like to see the government make it easier for women to have abortions. If the don’t want kids it’s cheaper to cut them out than to raise them in the system. However, I am also a capitalist, and I don’t belive the government should even fund healthcare. If they are going to fund healthcare though why not hook America up with the works? I don’t know about you but I’m holdin out for a plan with good dental, and vision…

    • December 3, 2009 9:58 pm

      In some sense women will have the same legal access. Further, as it stands about 75% of women pay for their own abortions out of pocket anyway. However, for the women who don’t, a lack of ability to pay is the same as lack of access. Currently, most women lack access anyway: almost 90% of US counties don’t have an abortion provider, which is why almost 90% of women who receive abortions are from metropolitan areas. The point is that these amendments make an environment that is already disadvantageous to women even more hostile. The points I raised above are important; even if legal access isn’t restricted, these amendments place added value-laden judgments and hurdles in the way of women who need this service. And it is just one more step to dismantling women’s right to control their own lives.

      (Figures attained from the Guttmacher Institute)

    • Nicoal permalink
      December 3, 2009 10:10 pm

      If Stupak passed, it definitely would change womyn’s access to abortions. Currently, some health insurance policies cover abortions in a few states through legislation or coverage can be granted by the courts (such as in California). If this health care bill passes, it is federal law, meaning all the state laws are subject to abide by the new bill…goodbye state legislation and court appointed coverage for abortions.

      In addition, the Democrats are just using womyn’s rights as a bargaining tool to get the Republicans to sign the damn bill. Assholes…

  2. Joseph permalink
    February 18, 2011 9:33 am


    I would love for you to do a post comparing the logic behind your compassion for lobster and the lack of understanding you have for people’s ability to torture those living beings AND your ability to stand behind women who have decided to end life because it is their body.

    Can you explain that “dichotomy” for us?

    For the record, I am neutral on abortion and I eat meat, but not lobster ( I think it tastes gross).

    • February 20, 2011 11:53 am

      I am a bit confused by your lobster comment. But I think you would like me to discuss why I think that animal rights and and a woman’s right to choose how she manages her own reproductive health are compatible. You, as many people who either support pro-life politics or denounce animal liberation, see them as “dichotomous” ideologies. Explaining my position is a wonderful idea for a post. Due to a jam-packed schedule my blogging has come to a crawling pace and will likely be that way until June, but this is a brilliant idea for a post and I will do it in one of my next posts. If you just can’t wait, there is a popular essay on the issue: “Abortion and Animal Rights: Are they comparable issues?” by Gary L. Francione in Animals & Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations (1995), ed. Adams and Donovan.

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