Sunday, November 08, 2009

Angry But Not Surprised About Stupak

I want to be happy that the House passed its version of Health Care Reform. Really. I believe so strongly about making health care a right not a privilege.

But the House version included a last minute amendment -- the Pitt-Stupak amendment -- which if included in the final law, will basically mean that any insurance company who wants to be part of the federal program will not be able to include abortion as a covered service. If passed, it's the greatest restriction on women's access to abortion since the Hyde Amendment passed more than two decades ago.

I feel betrayed. Betrayed by the 64 Democrats who voted for it. Betrayed by Nancy Pelosi who let it be brought to the floor. Betrayed by those in the pro-choice community who asked too early for us to get behind the Capps amendment which would have continued to deny women who needed abortion coverage in the public option but was 'abortion neutral'. We gave up too much ground too soon. And angry that our pro-choice President was willing to go along with trading the rights of women to get anti-choice legislators to go along with it, despite the fact that not a single Republican actually voted yes on health care reform.

I can't say that I'm surprised. I've been writing for more than the past two years about my concern about religious leaders who call themselves progressive but don't support LGBT rights or the rights of women to make their own decisions about their pregnancies. I've continually called for sexual justice to be an integral part of a progressive religious agenda. I've been asked far too many times to stop raising these issues, to recognize that they are divisive to a common ground agenda, that reaching out to Catholics and evangelical leaders is more important than working for justice to LGBT persons and women. I can't count how many times I've written here -- and in other articles -- that women's and LGBT's lives shouldn't be traded for political gains.

Some of those so-called progressive folks helped deliver health care reform in the House -- but they did it at the expense of hundreds of thousands of women who will now have even a more difficult time accessing safe abortion services. Removing abortion from covered insurance plans won't keep women from having abortions -- it will just mean that they happen later in pregnancies as women struggle to find the money to pay for them -- or they will resort once again to unsafe procedures.

The bottom line: women's lives got buried under common ground on Saturday night. And to those who said the religious right was dead, I wish it felt better to say, "I told you so."


Meg Blocker said...

I'm angry, too. When will people wake up and realize that legislating what women can and can't do with their own bodies is just as morally wrong as standing in the way of marriage equality or voting rights? It's inexcusable, and it seems to me that people with whom I agree about so many things find this issue to be a throw-away, something less important than others.

I just read an Op-Ed in the Greenwich Time praising a local Methodist church for protesting the mother church's position on LGBT ministrers and same-sex marriage. I agreed with almost everything, save this: "It is the only group that the policies of our great country explicitly discriminate against as well." (Link:

In reality, the laws of this country discriminate heavily against women - and will do so even more explicitly if the Stupak amendment makes it into the final bill.

Women, thrown under the bus (and then told to calm down, not make a fuss, that it's not a big deal), yet again. It makes my blood boil.

Desmond Ravenstone said...

When the other side is unwilling to compromise, or even listen to your point of view, how can our political leaders honestly talk about "common ground"?

We've been too polite and too deferential for too long. We should have imposed a condition on the anti-abortion zealots: "Give up opposition to contraception and meaningful sex education, and then we'll talk."

We didn't. They didn't. And now thousands of women will pay for it.

Brenda Z. Greene said...

I realize that politics is the art of compromise, but compromise should not include basic principles and beliefs. Although I believe strongly in the need for health reform, it should not be accomplished on the backs of women. I have lost all respect for the supposed pro-choice legislators who voted for this legislation. Although the Senate still must act, and maybe this bad amendment will disappear in the Senate version, the proverbial "nose of the camel" is not only under the tent, but already inside.

Loey Powell said...

Well said, Debra!

Bill Baar said...

Stupak believes abortion is murder.

What would you have him do given that?

Anonymous said...

This is a wise and thoughtful statement of feelings and beliefs with which I am in total agreement. Thank you for taking my inchoate thoughts and turning them into such clear and sensible words.

You did not say, but I will that I am deeply surprised at the power that the Catholic bishops still hold over politicians (Although the vote again same-sex marriage in Maine should have told me something ahead of this vote.) Not too many years ago, Catholic priests were embroiled in a national child sexual abuse scandal which when revealed showed the failure of their sexual beliefs to keep childen and teens safe from harm. Why should the views of this group of religious carry such sway and power at this moment of health care crisis in our nation? The politicians should have set their personal religious views aside and voted as secularists for what is needed now for all people in America.

Susie Wilson

Cassandra said...

Susie, keep in mind that the Catholic Bishops have been advocating for comprehensive health care reform for many years now. And you know, a secularist can hold the position that life should be protected from the moment of conception. This position is fundamentally based in natural law, not religious faith.

SimonGodOfHairdos said...

@Bill Baar: I would invite Stupak to exercise his right to never EVER have an abortion.

Bill Baar said...


The right in question is does Mr. Stupak have the right NOT to pay for an abortion.

Create a universal health care system and you're going to get universal protocols on clinical care.

Stupaks inserted a Live Panel into the proposed system and if one does Health Care by Federal Panels, this is the sort of thing we get.

You want it, you're going to have to live with Congressional mandated Clinical Interventions (or with holding of them) based on popular ethics.

If the majority believe abortion is murder, you're not going to see the majority pay for it.

That's what supporters of this Gov Plan mindset have wrought.

SimonGodOfHairdos said...

Bill, I am a pacifist yet my taxes pay for war. I have no children, but I still must help to fund the schools (no complaints about that, though!). We normally have no say as to what our taxes fund, so how can they use this argument to support discriminating against women? Most citizens do not utilize the public libraries that their taxes create, and most will not ever ask their insurance company to pay for an abortion. However, abortion is a medical procedure, and there should be no judgment on what is covered; that should only remain between a woman and her doctor. Catholic doctrine also opposes birth control, fertility treatments such as IVF, getting one's tubes tied, vasectomies, taking someone off life support, which is odd because if I'm not mistaken, when I was young we were taught that it was an offense to god to keep someone artificially alive on life support. This health care bill must be religion-blind; giving them this "in" opens a very dangerous door to a slippery slope. Only physicians should be able to determine what care their patients receive, and I will be quite irritated if Cardinal O'Malley shows up at my future tubal ligation.

Cassandra said...

taking someone off life support, which is odd because if I'm not mistaken, when I was young we were taught that it was an offense to god to keep someone artificially alive on life support.
Simon, this isn't correct. The Church's positon on life and death issues is much more nuanced. Here's the Church's actual teaching on the matter:

SimonGodOfHairdos said...

Cassandra, that's not the church's position, that's the position of the USCCB. Pope John Paul II himself has disagreed with the U.S. Bishops' statements regarding the removal of medically assisted nutrition and hydration (at a Vatican conference in 2004), so is it even possible to determine what the actual belief is here? Anyway, that doesn't matter to me. Despite attempts to make it seem otherwise, Catholic doctrine changes. In the early '80s, I was taught that removing someone from life support was morally wrong. In the early '50s, my parents were taught that putting someone on life support was wrong. Since religion is not concrete, but a debate-able philosophical system that not everyone chooses to subscribe to, it should have no part in our health care plan. If a powerful Muslim group forced an amendment that required banning the pig products that are found in many medications, there wouldn't even be a debate. The immediate outcry of "Your religion has nothing to do with my health care" would be fierce. The bishops' insistence on sticking their noses where they don't belong (in my ladyparts, how ironic) once again reaffirmed my decision to break free from Catholicism years ago. However, even if I were still a Catholic, I would be very insulted that my religious leaders did not trust me to make decisions about my own body based on my personal beliefs.

Bill Baar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Connery said...

Stupak's amendment exposes a divide within a big tent Democratic Party, and within the progressive left, as it pits the larger "pro-life" concerns addressed by the health care bill's extension of insurance to more Americans, against the more narrow definition of "pro-life" as it relates solely to the issue of abortion.

I'd like to invite you to an event in NYC (and streamed online) on Wednesday that should offer some interesting commentary on the subject.

It is a talk here in NYC between Harvard divinity Professor, and author of The Future of Faith, Harvey Cox, and WaPo columnist EJ Dionne.

If you'd like more information on how to attend, please email me at mconnery [at] progressivebookclub [dot] com.

If you'd like to watch online, the event will be streamed at beginning at 6pm Eastern on Wed. the 18th.