[Cross-posted at Femocracy .]
If you’re a supporter of women’s reproductive rights, you probably felt like you were being accused of behaving like Chicken Little during the health-care debate, when a few anti-choice lawmakers held the whole process hostage until strict language restricting abortion coverage was inserted (because apparently the Hyde Amendment didn’t go far enough for them.) Stop saying the sky is falling, was basically the message from lawmakers on the hill, who saw no problem with selling out women to win a legislative victory. No way were all those dire predictions about the increasing prevention of abortion coverages going to come to pass.
Except, oh wait, they are.
Anti-choicers have seen their window of opportunity , and they are jumping for it:
An obscure part of the law allows states to restrict abortion coverage by private plans operating in new insurance markets. Capitalizing on that language, abortion foes have succeeded in passing bans that, in some cases, go beyond federal statutes.
“We don’t consider elective abortion to be health care , so we don’t think it’s a bad thing for fewer private insurance companies to cover it,” said Mary Harned, attorney for Americans United for Life, a national organization that wrote a model law for the states.
Sure, one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime, but that’s not health care! Now a whole host of states are jumping on the anti-abortion bandwagon:
Since Obama signed the legislation law March 23, Arizona and Tennessee have enacted laws restricting abortion coverage by health plans in new insurance markets, called exchanges. About 30 million people will get their coverage through exchanges, which open in 2014 to serve individuals and small businesses.
In Florida, Mississippi and Missouri, lawmakers have passed bans and sent them to their governors. Most of the states allow exceptions in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. Insurers still could offer separate policies to specifically cover abortion.
Three other states may act this year – Louisiana, Ohio and Oklahoma. Overall, there are 29 states where lawmakers or public policy groups expressed serious interest, Harned said.
“You are going to see more actions like this,” said Tom McClusky, a lobbyist for the socially conservative Family Research Council. “This is not something we are just going to let fall by the wayside.”
Don’t you feel vindicated now? They sky was in fact just about to fall.
Now that I’m done slamming my head on the desk, I realize I’m not
angry at anti-choicers, really. This is what they were born to do. Using
any obscure law as a political opportunity is as necessary to them as
applause is to Tinker Bell. They need to restrict the reproductive
rights of women as much as they need air to breathe, and it may even be
more essential than food for sustenance. I can’t even be charitable
about this anymore.
Where I’m directing my anger is to the Democratic party. See, I show
up at the polls and vote Democratic because they are the party that’s
supposed to more closely represent my interests, and reproductive rights
are a big part of my interests. But then they recruit vehement
anti-choicers like Bart Stupak. And then when he dropped out of the
Congressional race because people found his anti-abortion tactics
abhorrent, the Democratic establishment supported
anti-choicer Gary McDowell over pro-choicer (and feminist!) Connie
I find this beyond demoralizing. After the Newsweek article about how
our generation doesn’t care about abortion, a lot of young feminists
across the blogosphere wrote some fantastic articles pushing back
against that idea. As a young, twenty-something feminist, I absolutely
care about abortion, just like I care about over-the-counter access to
Plan B, and affordable birth control and contraceptives. I also
recognize that the feminist movement can only go so far in terms of what
can be accomplished through organizing, even if the generational gap
was bridged, even if the institutional structures were hyper-effective
in terms of outreach, education and marshaling supporters to action. I
say this not as a critique on the movement, but because ultimately, all
the organizing has to be successful in electing pro-choice candidates
who can fight for our rights at the political level. If we don’t have
influence in Congress, well, then we don’t have much power at all.
At the time health care was passed, I felt like the underlying
message was “Suck it up feminists, we had to limit abortion coverage in
order to pass this bill.” When is the last time you heard politicians
tell anti-choicers to pipe down, because abortion is legal in this
country? Lawmakers always hint to us that our rights are totally safe as
if that gives them a pass for not standing up for them – while totally
ignoring the fact that they are under attack all the time at the state
level, with a bevy of laws that require ultrasound prescreenings, for
doctors to give patients misinformation outright, or to collect and
distribute patient information in a way that would seem to violate
doctor-patient confidentiality. All the Democrats did with the health
care bill was create another opportunity for reproductive rights to be
chipped away under state laws. And for what? Because Bart Stupak and a
few anti-choice Dems were holding up the process? I find it really,
really hard to believe that a mechanism like the Democratic party
couldn’t convince these select few that the Hyde Amendment went far
enough and they should just get on board with other kinds of incentives.
Feminists know our rights are not safe. What does it take to make our
concerns heard? To stop donating? To stop voting? But you know what
would be really fantastic? Instead of a barrage of articles decrying the
ineffectiveness of establishment feminism, let’s have some articles
examining what the ultimate hypocrisy of lawmakers results in – because
what power do feminists ultimately have if lawmakers do not stand up for
women’s rights, loudly and over and over again?