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Monday, 22 February 2010 03:24

By Omitting the Word "Abortion" in His Healthcare Proposal, Obama Ignores Half the Country

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BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

There's been a lot of silly posturing about word count and document length in the healthcare reform debate on both sides of the aisle. So, after I downloaded the president's proposal for overhauling the healthcare overhaul, I thought I'd do a quick key word search of the document, which weighed in at just over ten pages.

I typed into the search tab the word "abortion."

"No matches were found," Adobe Reader told me.

OK, what about "women"?

Nope.

Turns out that when the president's plan boasts that it "will end discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions," it's not being entirely truthful. At least one preexisting condition will remain: being a woman.

The Associated Press reports that the president's plan "includes Senate-passed restrictions on federal funding for abortion adamantly opposed by abortion foes as well as abortion rights supporters," but in reality the president's proposal doesn't address the issue directly.

Not that it really matters which side of Congress wins in this battle to be the legislative body that can take the most credit for eroding women's rights. The basic difference between the House and Senate bills on abortion is a sort of separate-but-equal distortion. Allow me to explain.

The Stupak Amendment in the House version, named for co-sponsor Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), expressly banned abortion coverage in the public option and for anyone receiving federal subsidies to purchase healthcare insurance via the exchange. It allows private insurers to provide coverage, but with the huge disincentive of making any plan that does provide it automatically unavailable to subsidy beneficiaries, the language could make abortion coverage virtually nonexistent in the American marketplace. Furthermore, such coverage could only be purchased through a "rider," a provision the National Women's Law Center recently called "meaningless":

Though proponents of the Stupak Amendment claim that women will have the option to purchase abortion coverage through a rider, privacy concerns, administrative barriers, the high cost of riders, and the disincentives women have to purchase insurance for any one specific health service, mean that insurance companies will not offer such riders and women will not buy them.

Five states (ND, KY, ID, OK, MO) have adopted “rider” policies similar to the Stupak Amendment. Even if a woman wanted to purchase an optional rider policy – a dubious proposition at best – no evidence has been found that such policies are available.

The Senate bill was supposed to be an improvement for a woman's right to choose, but functionally, the rider idea is simply replicated in a discriminatory fund segregation scheme. The Senate "compromise" would require people who want abortion coverage to send in a separate premium check every month to cover only that portion of their plan. Individual states could make abortion coverage illegal in their exchanges, and the "segregation of funds" would be policed by state entities.

When the Senate version passed, National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill criticized the "compromise," saying that it "would eventually do away with private as well as public insurance coverage for abortion care":

This dangerous provision not only further stigmatizes abortion care but it makes it nearly impossible for any health plans to offer comprehensive coverage

...it would enshrine into the country's first-ever comprehensive health care reform legislation the dangerous principle that women may be singled out for denial of legal health care.

Of course, none of this will stop conservatives and religious groups from lying about the Senate version. A supposed "news" report on the bill at Catholic Exchange erroneously referred to "the abortion-expanding Senate bill."

And such tactics might just work. The "report" goes on to brag that conservative lawmakers are going to fight reform until the Stupak Amendment is allowed back into the final bill:

In an interview with LifeSiteNews.com last week, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), co-chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, expressed certainty that pro-life Democrat representatives would hold out for a Hyde-amendment ban on abortion funding.

"They will. I've talked to many of them," said Smith.  "They have hardened their position. I think they've seen how noble their position is. They are not going to go for a phony compromise. They are not going to go for weakening language no matter how cleverly it is presented."

Of course they're not going to compromise. As I've pointed out before, religious groups are using healthcare reform as a hammer with which to bludgeon abortion rights and conservatives are using abortion rights as a bludgeon against healthcare reform. A match made in heaven.

So Stupak might get his "meaningless" rider proposal after all! Just remember, that when Stupak and his fellow Democrats trumpet the idea that they're ending discrimination against patients with preexisting conditions, they're only talking about half of the population.

On top of the fundamental unfairness of such a proposal, the bill will make coverage for abortions unobtainable on a practical level, if not a legal one. Carrying this to the logical conclusion, abortion services will only be available to the super rich, making it even less palatable for doctors to provide the service. Aside from the death threats and logistical problems associated with being an abortion provider, doctors will have a reduced access to patients.

Who needs the overturning of Roe v. Wade when you have healthcare reform?

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS

If you liked the video embedded above, check out more at the National Women's Law Center's "A Woman is not a Preexisting Condition" campaign page.