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Hey Stupak, women’s bodies are not bargaining chips

I should be writing about our historic progressive victory this morning. The U.S. House of Representatives voted for the first time to pass a health care reform bill.

But I’m not, because I don’t feel very progressive about a bill that takes away rights from millions of women like me.

I am not a bargaining chip.

I am not a special interest.

I’m a cisgender woman, pro-choice, of childbearing age and as far as I know, capable of getting pregnant. This means that my health insurance should cover, if needed, my right to a safe and still legal abortion, because it is a legal medical procedure.

Representative Bart Stupak (D-Michigan—yes, D, that’s not a typo) doesn’t think so. He doesn’t think that health insurance should provide abortion coverage. He thinks women should have to buy a separate rider that would cover abortion. Because, y’know, women like me totally plan on aborting lots of babies.

The Stupak-Pitts amendment to the health care reform bill that passed the House yesterday was approved not only by almost all Republicans, but by 64 Democrats , including two women. 26 of them then went on to vote against the health care bill, along with all but one Republican.

According to RH Reality Check, the amendment will:

* Prohibit individuals who receive the affordability tax credits from purchasing a private insurance plan that covers abortion, despite the fact that a majority of health insurance plans currently cover abortion.

* Result in a de facto ban on private insurance companies providing abortion coverage in the health insurance exchange, since the vast majority of participants would receive affordability tax credits.

* Prohibit the public option from providing abortion care, despite the fact that it would be funded through private premium dollars.

Scott Lemieux also notes:

Nothing in this amendment would ensure that rider policies are available or affordable to the more than 80 percent of individuals who will receive federal subsidies in order to help purchase coverage in the new exchange.

It would do exactly what conservative opponents of health care have been whining about for months now: come between a woman and her doctor. It would also come between a woman and her health insurance company, since it creates an additional restriction on what private companies can do—proving once again that when it comes to women’s bodies, there’s no regulation too strong for conservatives.

In addition to being a tax on being female, it’s class warfare, which most abortion battles are. Rich women can get abortions. They always could. They quietly and privately got them from their private physicians for years before Roe v. Wade. This just makes it even more explicit: Insurance will not cover this, so you have to shell out of pocket for it. The women getting subsidies from the government will be those least able to buy extra coverage—that would be why they’re getting government subsidies, obviously—nor will they want to, since most women tend to abort unplanned pregnancies, not ones they think about ahead of time.

It’s time to play hardball. We need another march for women’s lives. We need to give up on euphemisms and waffling and talk of embracing anti-choice Democrats. Let’s come out and say it: I want to have sex. Just like David Vitter, Newt Gingrich, John Ensign, Vito Fossella, and I’d imagine most men in this country considering Viagra (covered by health insurance) sales.

I want to have sex without another being hijacking my body for nine months. Men don’t have to buy an extra insurance rider to get Viagra and their insurance isn’t expected to cough up for an abortion even though they’re just as involved in the process of impregnation.

You think abortion is wrong? Don’t have one. I think killing people is wrong, so I’m not in the army. My tax dollars still go to fund it, though (in fact about 21 cents of each of my tax dollars). My tax dollars also go to keep prisoners on death row even though I think the death penalty is morally wrong. My tax dollars fund Guantanamo and Bagram, extraordinary rendition, and Jim DeMint’s salary, all of which I find disgusting. So why is abortion, a legal medical procedure, so remarkably different that we have to go overboard making sure tax dollars don’t fund it?

This isn’t the final bill. The Senate has to pass a bill and then the two will be merged in committee. But with the Senate bill already looking to be much more conservative and with anti-choicers feeling the rush of victory on this measure, it’s hard to see how we’ll get a more progressive bill out of the merger.

It’s time to make this another Anita Hill moment—where after seeing male conservatives attempt to shout down pro-choice women in Congress, women push back and run for office. The election cycle after Clarence Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court sent more women to Congress than ever before. We need to do that again. And the first seats to be targeted should be those of Democrats who voted for this pernicious amendment—particularly the ones who then turned around and voted against the health care bill.

Step one will be making sure that a version of this amendment doesn’t make it into the Senate bill, and that this one doesn’t survive committee. But that can’t be the only thing that happens, even if we do manage to win that battle. This can’t end here; not when we’ve seen what our supposed allies are willing to do to us.

We need to take all this hurt and anger and make it work for us. We need to understand that Democrats willing to sell out vulnerable people to pass a bill that for the most part protects insurance company profits are not our allies and never were. We need to understand that today it’s women; yesterday it was gay marriage and next week it’ll be immigration. We need to support each other.

Moments like this hurt, but they also bring about a kind of solidarity that gets things done. It’s time to fight.


Sarah Jaffe

Sarah Jaffe is former deputy editor of GlobalComment. She's interested in politics and pop culture, and has a special place in her heart for comics.

13 thoughts on “Hey Stupak, women’s bodies are not bargaining chips

  1. Excellent piece. All human rights legislation should be completely off limits as far as parliamentary horse trading is concerned. Doesn’t matter if the amendment will be pulled before the final version of the bill or not.

    Stupak is also a fully paid up member of the NRA – watch out for compulsory carry of concealed weapon legislation at some point in the future.

    Sometimes I think that our tent is a little too big.

  2. I am pro choice, but the logic of one of your statements is totally off and I think it is really worth mentioning. I know that this is not what you are trying to get at, but I think you should think twice before making this argument again. If you think that war is wrong, then don’t fund it with your tax dollars. Why do people just accept the status quo? That’s why there are demonstrations, protests, people writing letters and generally taking action to stop funding unethical practices (I am talking about war here, not abortion). If you let yourself, for example, pay for the war, you are implicitly supporting it, regardless of your objective moral stance.

  3. Pingback: Required Reading « ’NYC Unrated & Unfiltered
  4. @Isabel

    I see the point you’re making, but, according to U.S. law, it’s your own logic that’s off, not Sarah Jaffe’s.

    The reason why Sarah Jaffe’s tax payments do NOT imply her moral support for war is because all tax payments, by law, are made WITHOUT the implicit prior consent of the individual taxpayer — i.e., a U.S. taxpayer has no legal power to refuse to pay taxes due. Since a U.S. taxpayer cannot legally choose not to pay taxes, then he is not implicitly “choosing” to pay taxes when he pays them.

    His legal power to choose whether or not to pay taxes due was taken away from him in the Constitutional Convention in 1789 (which gave the U.S. Congress to right to levy and collect taxes). Since 1789, taxes have been levied and collected without the legal necessity of the individual taxpayer’s further consent. That is, since 1789, a U.S. taxpayer has no legal choice in the matter.

    So, since a U.S. taxpayer is not implicitly “choosing” to pay taxes, a taxpayer is not implicitly morally supporting even government itself, much less any specific policy (war, abortion, etc.).

    Sorry for this overlong comment. But since tax payments are, legally, without the individual taxpayer’s consent, tax payments don’t represent a ‘silent vote’ in favor of unethical policies.

    So Sarah Jaffe’s logic is correct after all.

  5. Isabel: I know.. therein lies the difficulty

    thx steve

    No P I think your writing, and is a argument then could use thinning

    No marches for me I think.

    thx jersey
    so need to reread lowdown… guys split? or just for now

  6. thx steve, jersey

    Isabel, P, k thats hard one. But I feel one has a least a say in where tax dollars are spent, through voting. So to that extent they are not arbitrarily imposed.

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