Right to Abortion about to Become Privilege of the Rich Only

Dear Readers,

Here are links to a piece of mine, published last week, on the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, in The Huffington Post and RH Reality Check.

Alternately titled: “Pitts is the Pits,” in honor of U.S. House of Representatives Member Joe Pitts, Republican from Pennsylvania, who chairs the House committee with jurisdiction over the matter of abortion funding, I let him have it in this piece. Time to disrespect these guys, just like they’ve disrespected us.

A couple days ago, Rep. Pitts said: “…the momentum [in Congress] is on the pro-life side…” [See here: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20029391-503544.html.]

Indeed, things really are going from bad to worse on this front. So, if there was ever a time you thought about getting involved in the fight for women’s reproductive rights, but you didn’t act on the thought, now is definitely that time to act.

Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the ACLU, the Center for Reproductive Rights; take your pick; there are lots of good options for activists.



Abort the Executive Order

Dear Readers,

Here are my thoughts about the Executive Order the President signed yesterday, in the presence of Bart Stupak and his anti-choice cronies. I have to say this really, really doesn’t feel good.

Go to this link for the post at RH Reality Check: www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/03/25/abort-executive-order




Wreckonciliation or Reconciliation?

Dear Readers,

“Americans who support abortion rights need to make their voices heard.”

That’s according to today’s New York Times. [See here: http://wwwnytimes.com/2010/03/10/opinion/10wed2.html?ref=opinion.]

As it happens, I spoke-out earlier this week, on Monday, International Women’s Day.

My goal was to prod people, (no surprise there!), on this auspicious day.

Below is the link to that blogpost of mine, “Wreckonciliation,” at RH Reality Check.

The post also appeared in Huffington Post Politics and Huffington Post Chicago and was picked-up by Daily Kos and Medical News Today, among others.

I’m confident you, too, will strike a chord when you speak-up.

Here is the link to “Wreckonciliation”:

Last, as if further proof were needed that it’s now or never, last night on Rachel Maddow, Congresswoman Diane DeGette, the Co-Chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, said: “History has shown that if we pass a resolution restricting women’s right to choose, we never get it back.” [See here: http://www.rhreality.org/]

Time to make our voices heard, indeed.




On International Women’s Day, I imagined the White House full of cooing, hugging women, celebrating the wonder of the world’s and America’s women, and I had to ask: where’s the wonder?

To coin a cliché: Where’s the beef?

Here’s my beef: We, the women of America, are being told by those on-high, starting with those who might have been at the White House on International Women’s Day, including Nancy Pelosi–the most important woman in America right about now–that American women’s most fundamental right, our right to control our reproductive destiny, should be of no consequence in the effort to reform healthcare.

Yup, that’s the bottom line for the Speaker, the bottom line she reached Thursday, near the end of her soon-to-be, five-month death march to wreckoncilation. “This is not about abortion,” the Speaker said, when even the most politically untrained, outside-the-Beltway bystander knows otherwise.

Well, Madame Speaker: You would be wrong about that. “Abortion could be health bill deal breaker in House,” according to the D.C.-insiders’ bible, Politico.

Yup, Madame Speaker, right-about-now healthcare reform is about nothing but abortion, as some of us have been saying all along it would be; in fact, as some of us were saying it would need to be, if there were to be any justice in this enterprise. And, Madame Speaker, truth-be-told, you and the President have also known this, at least since last November, four months and counting, ago, when “…[You were] forced to give [Rep. Bart] Stupak a floor vote that incorporated his strict abortion funding provision,” in order to pass your healthcare reform bill.

Four months and a day later, Rep. Stupak would be right: “‘Nothing has changed,’ said [Rep.] Stupak. ‘I don’t think they have the votes to pass it (a healthcare reform bill without Stupak Amendment-type language re access to abortion).”

Madame Speaker, like it or not, and I say it again, Rep. Stupak is right: The future of (your and the President’s) healthcare reform has come down to this: Can you and the White House come to a winning plan on how to deal with access to abortion.

Why? Because access to abortion is the marker of women’s equality, and who are you and the President, if you’re willing to win without this?

Madame Speaker: But for legal access to abortion, no American woman has equal opportunity. I can’t believe this is something you don’t want.

And, anyway, Rep. Stupak is playing hardball: What choice do you have?

Madame Speaker: I know that you and other inside-the-Beltway women’s-issues’ dealmakers, not to mention your post-racial, post-feminist thirty-something staffers don’t like hearing this, but it’s true. I know you’d all rather spend International Women’s Day lauding one another and having us laud you. Well, no can do.

And anyway, the proof of my point is, so-to-speak, in the (Catholic Bishop’s) pudding. They’re cooking up lots, right about now.

Just look at how hard they are fighting to prevent access to abortion, just because they know what you’ll know too, in your heart-of-hearts, and here I repeat: Access to abortion is the marker of women’s equality.

And, as if all this pudding could get any more distasteful, take a good, hard look at just how the Bishops are cooking it up–doing just what politicians (and bishops) do when things get really right-down-to-it: Covering-up their real intentions with lofty sentiments about morality and justice while they cook-away, and deal-away, behind closed doors, hoping those of us out in the hinterlands are lulled into complacency by talk of morality and justice.

Madame Speaker, to coin another cliché: “This will never do.”

So, Madame Speaker, please read these theses I’ve nailed to your D.C.-church door, the building otherwise known as the House of Representatives:

1) There is no proof that we can’t have a healthcare reform bill, providing for unfettered access to abortion, just as it does for all other lawful medical procedures. Why? Because we haven’t yet heard any at-the-table Beltway-dealmakers, say that healthcare reform is an oxymoron if it doesn’t provide for women’s equal access to healthcare, and then fight for just that.

By contrast, Rep. Stupak, and his “merry anti-choice band,” are doing what true believers generally do: They are fighting really, really smart, and really, really hard for what they (truly) believe in.

Madame Speaker: Are you a true believer (in women’s equality)?

Madame Speaker: Why are you going down without a fight, especially for the sake of rich-as-Croesus-already health insurers, who are just going to get richer, once your Stupak-lite passes, because the risk pool they’ll then be insuring will be getting riskier (once all those people with expensive pre-existing conditions are in the pool), and so premium costs will go up even more than they already have.

And, Madame Speaker, even if there’s some, as yet unshared-with-the-public proof that the only healthcare bill that could ever be on the table for a vote in 2010 is Stupak-lite, why in the world should the women Members and Senators–led down that rose-garden path by you–vote for Stupak-lite? Because something is better than nothing?

I don’t buy it. See above for starters. There hasn’t been battle-one yet.

How about an equally aggressive fight, led by you? How about saying something this evening at The White House?!

This takes me to thesis two.

2) “I won’t always be there with you.”

Some in Chicago heard the President–in the earliest months of his Presidential campaign–say just those words, talking about the issue of abortion.

Yup, just as I’ve been writing in these pages for months: The President never promised us a Rose Garden. And boy has he kept his promise. Not once during this year of speaking, meeting, deal-making, power-breaking, think-tanking, and healthcare-summiting has the President ever said that women’s health is as important as men’s, and that, therefore, it ought to be recognized as such in his healthcare reform bill.

So, maybe, you’ve been thinking all this time that, ah gee, he’ll come home when it really matters. Well, he hasn’t. Not to our home.

Instead, when the President finally stated his legislative preference for a healthcare reform bill over a year into his Presidency, and almost four months after Mr. Stupak had his say (and his wish come true), the President’s preference was for the healthcare bill passed by the U.S. Senate: Yup, that one.

Stupak-lite, and that’s putting the best face on it. Stupak-lite: The one that contains noxious, rabidly anti-women language, effectively mooting American women’s constitutionally protected access to abortion.

Stupak-lite: The one that has no public option, no national health insurance exchange, (but, instead, state-based health insurance exchanges, permitting a network of anti-women local pols to govern American women’s healthcare; boy, that’s worked out really well for women), and no employer mandate to provide health insurance (even at the employee’s own expense). Well, you get the drift.

Stupak-lite: The one that is really, really light, not-to-say ephemeral, when it comes to protecting the women of America.

3) Sisterhood is powerful, but it is only powerful when it advances the rights of all sisters. [Neither Stupak-lite, nor the current federal laws governing access to abortion, do that for American women.]

Madame Speaker: According to published reports, when the proverbial “[healthcare reform] s(…) hit the fan” last Thursday, you called to your office a group of Beltway women’s-issues advocates and power brokers.

Did anyone at that meeting ask you whether you think it’s right–for the women of America–that you and other women Members and Senators are mooting our constitutional right for the sake of Stupak-lite?

Assuming you said “yes,” or, alternatively, that you said “no, but that’s the only choice I have,” why do you sound so righteous as you discard the rights of your sisters?

Why do you sound so righteous when neither Stupak-lite, nor the current federal laws governing access to abortion, do that for American women?

4) Some bill, any bill, (won’t) do.

Madam Speaker, I feel like we’re all becoming slaves to Baltimore, or Chicago, or Beltway art-of-the-possible approaches to governing, ones you and the President know so well; ones that say some bill, any bill, will do; ones that say that the only failed health reform bill is no health reform bill.

For, God-forbid, Barack Obama should have the same stripe on his back as Bill Clinton: The one that says: I failed to pass a health reform bill. For, God-forbid Rahm should return to Chicago as just another rich investment banker, former D.C. insider who couldn’t get the big one done. God-forbid you should go down in history as a Speaker who couldn’t get the big one done, either. The women of America will just have to be sacrificed to avoid all this unpleasantness.

5) Madame Speaker: I repeat: That will never do.

Madame Speaker: Hear this: The only healthcare reform bill that matters right now is about abortion, and that’s a good thing. And here’s why. As you sit in those oh-so-lovely White House and Capitol rooms this International Women’s Day, remember this: What you give away today will never suffice; they’ll just ask for more tomorrow. That’s how Washington works; that’s how men in power work; that’s how women in power who don’t care about other women work. That’s wreckonciliation.

So, you might as well fight for what really matters: Fight for our (not God-given, but even better than that, Supreme-Court given) right to abortion. Fight for reconciliation.



With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies: Senate Health Deal Readmits Gender Bias by Insurers

Dear Readers,

This one is a trip: Keep reading, even though it may be late (or early). I’ve bolded the particularly ridiculous, in my opinion, findings reported in this article.

As we prepare for tomorrow’s recognition of the Supreme Court’s action in Roe v. Wade, as we used to say in the ’70’s, “put this one in your pipe and smoke it.” Unbelievable.

Best wishes.

Senate Health Deal Readmits Gender Bias by Insurers

By Susan Elan
WeNews correspondent
Thursday, January 21, 2010

Women’s rights leaders already embittered by lawmakers’ compromises on abortion coverage in health reform say Senate negotiators have further hurt women by allowing gender bias–or the practice of charging women more than men–to continue in their version.

NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)–With the nation’s interest in health care reform growing in intensity, even influencing election outcomes, the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C., warned on Jan. 15 that the Senate health care reform bill would not end gender rating, the practice by which insurers charge women higher premiums than men for the same coverage. In contrast, the House version would ban the practice.

Larger employers with predominantly female work forces–such as child care providers, visiting nurse associations and even some smaller school districts–would continue to be charged higher premiums “simply because of the demographics of their work force,” Judy Waxman, vice president for Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women’s Law Center, said in a Jan. 15 message to their members.

The Senate bill eliminates gender rating for companies with fewer than 100 employees. Spurred by this further disappointment with the Senate’s Reid-Nelson health reform bill–which joins the House version in restricting abortion coverage–the new president of the National Organization for Women is threatening to join those opposing passage of health care legislation in its current form.

It’s beyond outrageous that our friends in the leadership in the House and Senate and the White House did not call me to tell me this,” said Terry O’Neill, who was elected in June to succeed the term-limited Kim Gandy as president of NOW. “As it is, if the Reid-Nelson compromise passes, after a period of years, women in this country will have no private or public coverage for abortion care. And then they’re going to sneak in the continuation of gender rating and they expect us to sit back and not call for the bill to be completely killed? They’ve got another thing coming.”

O’Neill said the nonpartisan group NOW would support pro-choice candidates regardless of party affiliation, from independent candidates to GOP members willing to go “back to the way it was before it was taken over by extremists.”

Coakley Race Crucial

The disaffection of pro-choice advocates from Democrats and the political compromises they have accepted on health reform coincides with the Tuesday loss of pro-choice Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in the special senate race for the seat vacated by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Coakley’s victory was considered crucial for retaining the solid 60 votes necessary for health reform passage.

Scott Brown, the victor in the Massachusetts race, campaigned on his opposition to the health care bill. The Republican Majority for Choice did not endorse Brown because the group wasn’t able to scrutinize his full voting record on reproductive issues.

Kellie Ferguson, executive director of the Washington-based group, said Brown has expressed support for Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling preserving abortion as part of a woman’s right to privacy. Ferguson added that Brown, as a state senator, also voted for emergency contraception for rape victims. However, he voted for parental consent for abortions too and possibly other restrictions. Because of his record, Ferguson said she believes Brown “will be someone they can work with.”

The industry-friendly concession on preserving insurers’ right to gender bias is part of the Senate’s Reid-Nelson compromise, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.

That duo has left Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, calling for changes to the Senate filibuster rule that she said makes it possible for one senator–such as Nebraska’s Nelson or now Massachusetts’ Brown–to block legislation and appointments.

“How can we be in this position where we are constantly fighting to prevent further restrictions?” Smeal said.

Insurance companies claim that higher overall average costs for women’s health care justify the practice but women’s advocates call it discriminatory.

Women pay up to 48 percent more for health insurance than men, Smeal said.

Bills Restrict Abortion Access

The House and Senate health care reform bills, now undergoing reconciliation in Washington, both restrict access to abortion.

The House’s Stupak-Pitts amendment bans all coverage of abortion in insurance plans to be offered in a newly created insurance exchange.

The Senate’s Reid-Nelson compromise forbids any federal subsidy or funding to pay for abortion coverage.

Under the Senate version, women in theory could buy coverage as long as they pay for it separately with their own money. But individual states could “opt-out” and pass legislation prohibiting their insurance exchange from having plans that cover abortion at all.

Groups ranging from the YWCA to the American Medical Student Association warn that both bills create a clear incentive for health insurance plans to stop covering abortion. Currently, up to 85 percent of health insurance plans do cover these procedures.

Amid the turmoil over health care reform, Ellen Malcolm, president of the pro-choice EMILY’s List, announced earlier this month that she is stepping down.

Stephanie Schriock, 36, a key political architect of the election of Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, will replace Malcolm, 62, on Feb. 1.

Malcolm, who founded EMILY’s List in 1985 to elect pro-choice Democratic women to office, and Schriock, who also headed the campaign of Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, could not be reached for comment on how the health care reform debate would affect the strategy of one of the largest political action committees in the nation.

Matt Burgess, an Emily’s List spokesperson, told Women’s eNews that Malcolm will continue serving the organization as chairwoman of the board.

Malcolm, who has served for 25 years, announced the search for a new president in July 2009 on the EMILY’s List Web site.

Three Male Lawmakers to Blame

In a Dec. 20, 2009, e-mail–forwarded to Women’s eNews by Burgess–Malcolm blamed “the fiasco around abortion coverage in health care reform” on the general male-domination of Congress and three male lawmakers in particular: Stupak, Nelson and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, who heads the smallest minority party since 1979 but nevertheless has managed to keep his 40-member caucus unified in its opposition to health care reform.

“Our elected women are the ones who fought long and hard to defeat the Stupak-Nelson forces in Congress,” Malcolm wrote.

Seventeen percent of lawmakers in Congress are women, according to the Center for American Women and Politics Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers.

During interviews with Women’s eNews, pro-choice leaders leveled no criticism at Democratic female lawmakers, although Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the first woman speaker of the House, admitted in published reports that she had given in to abortion opponents in her party to save the health care reform bill.

NOW’s O’Neill expressed doubt about the ability of the two-party system to protect women.

The Republicans are implacably opposed to women achieving our rights and the other party knows we have no place to go,” she said.

The Feminist Majority’s Smeal said she wants closer scrutiny of the Catholic bishops for ignoring restrictions on political activism by a tax-exempt religious institution.

Catholic Bishops Exert Pressure

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said it would fight any health care reform bill that did not contain restrictions on abortion. The bishops told priests across the country to talk about the legislation at all masses, to include the anti-choice information in more than 19,000 parish bulletins and to mobilize parishioners to contact Congress.

The bishops also repeatedly visited the offices of members of Congress, Smeal said. She urged Congress members “to get the same backbone” the Washington, D.C., City Council showed when it refused to bow to pressure from the bishops over the legalization of gay marriage.

“We are supposed to have a separation of church and state,” Smeal said. “Religion should not dictate. There are the mullahs in Iran and the bishops here.”

“The Catholic community led by their bishops must make their voice heard in the public square,” Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Women’s eNews in response to Smeal’s criticism. “Anything short of that would be to abdicate their responsibility as citizens and Catholics. The bishops defend the weak and defenseless. Someone has to. All U.S. citizens ought to. Health care reform is about saving lives, not taking them.”

Walsh did not respond to questions about the possible violation of the bishop conference’s tax-exempt status.

For more information:

EMILY’s List
Feminist Majority Foundation
NARAL Pro-Choice America
National Organization for Womenhttp://www.now.org