I'm sure that all of us had been waiting with bated breath to see what would happen with the House of Representative's healthcare bill this weekend...
The good news is that it passed. The bad news, for feminists, women, and families across the nation, is that it passed with the Stupak Amendment attached to it.
A number of anti-choice Democrats threatened to veto the bill if abortion could be subsidized in any manner by the federal government.
Here's the language from the Stupak Amendment:
The amendment will prohibit federal funds for abortion services in the public option. It also prohibits individuals who receive affordability credits from purchasing a plan that provides elective abortions. However, it allows individuals, both who receive affordability credits and who do not, to separately purchase with their own funds plans that cover elective abortions. It also clarifies that private plans may still offer elective abortions.
So, if a woman who is utilizing the public option for her healthcare wants an abortion, she will have to pay hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket for it. Here's the kicker: if she receives credits from the federal government to help her pay for other healthcare, she cannot purchase a plan that would cover abortion. She would again, have to pay out-of-pocket for it.
The Stupak Amendment was lobbied heavily by the Roman Catholic Church. Now, I do not mean to disrespect anyone's religion, but the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church are celibate males: men who have never had sex in their lives, have never had wives or partners, and have never had a family. What do they know about a woman's right to choose? Why should I, as a young woman of no particular religious persuasion, have my reproductive choices made by men whose religion I do not follow, and who will never have to even worry about fathering or raising a child, or having an abortion?
Do these people not understand that abortion is a legal medical procedure? Let's imagine that I was part of a religion that did not believe in, say, chemotherapy for lung cancer. What if I told a lung cancer patient, "Too bad you have lung cancer! You chose to smoke cigarettes! Now, you must pay the consequences! I don't want my tax dollars going towards your legal medical treatment, because I don't believe in it!" What if a senator or U.S. representative tried to write something like that into healthcare reform? Would that be acceptable? Of course not.
If you disagree with the passage of the Stupak Amendment, it is time to become politically active. (Actually, it's always good to be politically active! Contact your representatives with the issues you have with their votes and actions in Congress. They are there for you! Hold them accountable!)
If you don't already know who your representative is, check here. (All you need to do is type in your zip code). Once you do that, check here to see if he or she voted "yea" on the Stupak Amendment. (Note: all the Republicans in the House voted yes. 64 Democrats voted yes). If you disagree with your Rep's vote, call his or her office or write a letter! If you agree with your Rep's vote, send him or her a letter of support for standing up for women's health and safety. (That's what I just did! Thanks, Rep. Tim Bishop!)
Also, check out this post on Feministing. At the bottom, Ann gives some tips on what to do next: send a check to Planned Parenthood in Bart Stupak's name, help a pro-choice woman run for office, and work on overturning the Hyde Amendment.
So, is there any good news to come out of this healthcare bill? Of course there is! Again, Ann at Feministing has written a great post on the good things that have come out of the bill. There's a lot of really positive stuff for LGBTQ people, the House bill expands Medicaid, and it funds comprehensive sex ed programs.
See: the glass is half-full!
Don't get too excited yet, however. The Senate now has to vote on their bill, and then the Senate and House bills need to be somehow combined into one. From what I've read of the Senate bill, it's a lot less progressive than the not-very-progressive House bill. So, continue reading your newspapers and blogs, and make sure to keep up on this very important topic!