Morning Tizz: The Abortion "Compromise"

By Morning Fizz December 20, 2009


Morning Fizz has only turned into Morning Tizz once before—when the state legislature stiffed Seattle and allocated millions of dollars in stimulus money to Eastern Washington counties instead—but we think this weekend's health-care news (Senate Democrats agreed to support a bill that places strict, and potentially unconstitutional, limits on abortion funding) merits the tizz title too.

Yesterday, Erica wrote about the direct implications of the bill for women; today, we hand the microphone to some smart folks from around the web who are equally unimpressed with the Senate "compromise":

Angry Black Bitch:
There must be a line…a wall to hit…or the struggle for reproductive justice is merely a suggestion.

It's just a request.

A thing that gets mentioned politely whenever health care is being discussed.

"Oh, would you mind not throwing women under the bus while you get your reform on?"

"Could you, pretty please, not mandate that women purchase health care insurance that fails to cover the full spectrum of reproductive health care services?"

"Would you be so kind as to not leave military women uncovered…again…to not leave women uniquely worse off after healthcare reform than we were before you started?"

There must be a line…and it galls me to even write that because I hate negotiating from a place of “let’s fight like mad for the status quo, y'all!”

But there must be a line…a wall…a place that is acceptable and then the place right in front of it that is unacceptable.

The Senate has crossed that line.

This health care reform bill, negotiated on the backs of women and soon to be presented for a vote with political boots placed firmly on the throat of reproductive justice, is unacceptable.

I’m saying that knowing full well what’s at stake…because women’s health is not worth less than the health of others.

So, don’t tell me that we …women…should take one for the team.

Don’t tell me that we…women…should casually allow government to roll back the clock on legal rights people risked their lives to gain because women’s lives were, and should Mo
Don’t tell me to make a compromise that, in the same situation, you would not make and, funny enough, were not asked to make because it’s never The Man being told his vasectomy won’t be covered or his Viagra won’t be covered or his prostate surgery won’t be covered.

Is it.

Providing prenatal services to pregnant women is a pro-life gesture by any stretch of the imagination. As is providing health insurance to young children. As we saw the other day, uninsured children are over three times more likely to die from their trauma-related injuries than are commercially insured children, even after adjustment for other factors such as age, gender, race, injury severity and injury type.

But Nelson won’t let those lives be saved unless the bill is modified in an insulting and discriminatory way. And part of the insanity of it is that the actual impact on the number of abortions in America is going to be tiny. Middle-class women will be able to pay for abortions out of pocket, and the “Hyde Amendment” status quo already screws poor women. But it’s a nice symbolic dig at pro-choice America, and a further means of stigmatizing reproductive health services as somehow not real health care. And Nelson, Bart Stupack, and various bishops love the idea of holding the whole package hostage to this point, since I guess the dead kids with trauma injuries will go to heaven anyway or something.

RH Reality Check:
Not a single Democratic woman Senator, not one, has stood-up, in this week since Senator Nelson's anti-abortion bill was defeated, and said to him:  Enough already. Your bill was defeated. Our side won. Your side lost. Women's equal access to reproductive healthcare will be a part of the Senate healthcare bill because we will insist on it until it's done.

Not one of the Democratic women Senators has said, to paraphrase David Axelrod's comments of Thursday morning: "[The healthcare bill] should be about [women] who need help."

Not one has said:  At least half the American people needing help are women, and so far the Senate's bill isn't giving them the help they need. We won't vote for any bill until it includes that help.

Meanwhile, here's what Senator Nelson said this week about his approach to the healthcare bill: "There isn't any real way to move away from your principle on abortion."

Now there's someone to respect. He's got the courage of his convictions. He actually has a position of principle from which he won't budge. He has a principle, based on his moral beliefs, that guides the political decisions he makes.

What a concept.

On the other hand, here's what Senator Boxer said on the same day: "What I'm after is the status quo."

And what might that status quo be? Well, it is the "Hyde Amendment," which prohibits the federal government from paying for abortions for poor women covered by Medicaid.

Talk about tragedy: The best we can get is a Democratic woman Senator advocating for second-class citizenship for her poorer sisters.

Terry O'Neill, head of the National Organization for Women:
The so-called health care reform bill now before the Senate, with the addition of Majority Leader Harry Reid's Manager's Amendment, amounts to a health insurance bill for half the population and a sweeping anti-abortion law for the rest of us. And by the way, it's the rest of us who voted the current leadership into both houses of Congress.

The National Organization for Women is outraged that Senate leadership would cave in to Sen. Ben Nelson, offering a compromise that amounts to a Stupak-like ban on insurance coverage for abortion care. Right-wing ideologues like Nelson and the Catholic Bishops may not understand this, but abortion is health care. And health care reform is not true reform if it denies women coverage for the full range of reproductive health services.

We call on all senators who consider themselves friends of women's rights to reject the Manager's Amendment, and if it remains, to defeat this cruelly over-compromised legislation.

Stupak and Nelson have finally given the liberals in the House a serious, principled reason to walk away. The dynamics still argue that they won't do it for this or any other reason, and that they will simply allow women to get shafted. (There is apparently no limit to the amount of shit the left must be forced to eat to get this bill passed.)

But the stakes are now higher for liberals than they have been. Voting to restrict a woman's ability to exercize her right to abortion in half the country is as much of a gut check as voting for a bill that doesn't contain a public option. Some might actually calculate that it's a bridge too far. And those who were already leaning toward voting against the bill for all those other reasons will now feel much more secure that they are standing up for liberal principles when they do it.

There is such a thing as the straw that broke the camel's back, even for liberals who desperately want to pass health care reform. This might be it.

And the heads of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, US Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), via The Hill:
"As the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, we have serious reservations about the abortion provision included in the U.S. Senate’s health care bill," the lawmakers said.

"This provision is not only offensive to people who believe in choice, but it is also possibly unconstitutional," DeGette and Slaughter added. "As we have maintained throughout this process, health care reform should not be misused to take away access to health care."

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