Private Parts: Who Owns Them?
If you listened to U.S. Senators Bart Stupak and Joe Pitts, lately, you might think American health insurance companies were the glue holding the nation together. We don’t want socialized medicine! they shout. (Well what the heck are Medicare and Medicaid, then?) Protect insurance companies from going out of business! they scream. Says former California State Senator Deborah Ortiz, VP of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, “It’s almost a parody…'protect the poor insurance companies.'” And yet, these same insurance companies are already admitting to their shareholders that the government plan will not put them out of business—not by a long shot.
In a recent interview with Silicon Valley bloggers, Ortiz shared a copy of a document containing a number of signatures that Sens. Stupak and Pitts were passing around on Monday, Sept. 28th. They were, according to Ortiz, “circulating [this] letter among members of the House, calling upon Speaker Pelosi and the Chair of the House Rules Committee, essentially urging those leaders to allow members of Congress to ‘vote their consciences’ and to prohibit Federal health care reform from paying for abortions as part of women’s essential and comprehensive reproductive health care services.” Who signed this letter? Thankfully, no California Blue Dogs, as of the following day. The signatures were mostly Republicans, but 25 Democrats had already signed it. They needed 14 more Democrats to agree to vote against any language allowing abortion rights in order to reach the magic threshold to become an amendment to the House bill. In fact, this could potentially kill the entire bill. As of Thursday, their efforts were defeated. But don't fool yourself. The battle's not over yet.
Let me clarify my own position. I believe that every person has to answer for themselves and no one, NO ONE has the right to speak for me as an adult and tell me what to do or not do, with regard to my body and my health issues. I’m not stupid. I understand that my actions have consequences. If I pierce my eyebrows (to give a not-so-extreme example) I will probably have trouble garnering a high-level position at a large and well-respected bank. But I believe I should be able to make that choice on my own. When it comes to issues involving morality, I have no one to answer to but God. You may disagree with whatever choice I make, good or bad, but when I die, you won’t be there. It’s just me at the Pearly Gates. My choices will have to speak for themselves. And dangit, I strongly believe that I have the unalienable right to be in charge of my own uterus.
Yet I can also understand why many people won’t want Federal dollars subsidizing health insurance that covers abortions. Let’s be clear, however. As a result of the Hyde Amendment, which expressly prohibits abortions (with the exceptions of rape or incest or the health of the woman) that use Federal money (say, in the case of a woman in the U.S. military), that is in fact the state of things, currently. But did you know that a whopping 90% of private insurance plans include abortions as part of their standard coverage? That’s huge! That’s why I can’t understand why the very effective language that U.S. Representative Lois Capps of California put forward in the Capps Amendment hasn’t been added to the text of any bill put forward. You know what it says? Alright smarty-pants, you can read it for yourself—just click here. For the busy mothers and fathers out there, here's the quick breakdown version:
1. It does NOT allow abortions to be paid for with Federal funds. Those providers subsidized by the government who are willing to provide abortion services must pay for them out of a separate, private fund.
2. The government plan for private, subsidized care must allow one provider willing to cover abortions and one NOT willing to cover abortions. Thus, individuals may choose to be a part of a plan that fits their needs and not have their premiums used for abortions, should they object to such services.
3. Rep. Lois Capps notes that, “Today, nearly 90 percent of employer-sponsored private health insurance plans cover abortion services.” Thus, the Federal plan would go beyond that of the vast majority of private plans in giving people a choice about choice.
4. Capps further points out that this amendment “specifically prohibits abortion from being included as part of the essential benefits package. No one - not the Secretary of Health and Human Services nor the Health Benefits Advisory Committee - can make abortion a part of the essential benefits package.”
So I’ve got to ask you—what the H - E - double toothpicks is everyone griping about? We have the language and we have the ability to reconcile any bill that tries to take away that to which we already have access. Seriously—if abortions are the sticking point, then why aren’t our U.S. Senators using this language to make government-subsidized health coverage a reality?
I count myself truly blessed to live in a place where—and at a time when—I have these kinds of choices. Most women today (myself included) are too young to remember when there was no “choice”. Can you imagine then, what life will be like if poor and even middle-income women (a growing group, given this week’s official jobless numbers) aren’t able to get any kind of comprehensive reproductive care, much less the kind that involves a personal moral dilemma? I don’t want to have to find out that my daughter died because she tried to get a secret abortion from an unlicensed, unqualified pseudo-doctor. That thought alone makes my heart stop. No, don’t call me a bad parent for thinking my kid might do something like that. Kids do stupid stuff, despite our best efforts. You know exactly what I'm talking about.
As a part-time professor facing severe cut-backs, my neck is on the chopping block. I could easily lose my job, tomorrow. I hope you won’t let the rich insurance company lobbyists and conservative extremists decide that the poor will get poorer in health and everyone around them will slowly be pulled down into the drink, too. Do they really think this will make our nation great?
The window of opportunity is closing fast. Stop waiting for someone else to speak up and protect your reproductive rights. Go online and write to your Congressional Representatives and Senators. I've even given you the links, right there. I’m already halfway through the Bs of my Senatorial letter-writing campaign, now.
A little help would be appreciated.
When she's not acting up, Angela O. writes for several blogs, including A World Of Words, From Basic Training To Black Sash: A Mother's Wing Chun Journey, and Sundance...Or Bust, documenting her second annual trip to the Sundance Film Festival. This is an original post to Silicon Valley Mom's Blog.