Two nights ago, my weary eyes again scoured the pages of the House and Senate versions of America's health care reform bill. My mission: a near futile attempt to decipher the language as to how either bill may impact health insurance coverage for women. In my limited experience of reading governmental documents the key to enlightenment is decoding the semantics. As I understand the aim of the Stupid amendment -- oops -- I meant Stupak amendment is to ban the use of public monies (government subsidized health care) to cover medical abortion care in the public option (House bill) health care. Basically, what this all means is that pregnancy termination procedures and related care, while still legal, would not be funded under the proposed public health insurance reform.
For about 7 years I lived without health insurance. In addition to believing I was invincible, I simply could not afford individual health insurance. At that time I bartended and insurance was not an option. Rarely did I step into a physician's office or visit a dentist. Even after a car accident I refused to go to the hospital. Not realizing I suffered a concussion, I walked around for three days asking the time and date. A friend finally forced me to go to the hospital. Shortly after my equilibrium balanced I received an outrageous medical bill. However, now I am in a place of privilege as an insured American woman. Millions of Americans live without health insurance and are undoubtedly refused medical attention due to lack of funds. Others are forced to pay exorbitant premiums for little coverage.
Throughout 2009 the President fought to pass a health care insurance reform. President Obama's vision is to make affordable, quality health care available to many uninsured Americans. According to Planned Parenthood, 46 million Americans are currently uninsured and women between the ages of 18-64 number around 17 million. Currently, the health care reform struggle continues.
With a few tweaks The House of Representatives approved The Affordable Health Care for America Act bill (H.R.3962) on November 7, 2009. Using bargaining leverage by promising his vote, congressman Bart Stupak proposed an amendment to the House version of the health bill which restricts the public plan from covering abortion care.
Still ringing true, pro-lifers believe giving women the right to choose what happens to her body encourages abortion. Conservatives and religious organizations contest that our government not only condones but also endorses abortion by offering termination health care coverage. In effect they allege that our government would be encouraging careless, "loose" women to use abortion as a casual, quick means of birth control. Consider this statement made by Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life. "The key thing is that without an amendment that explicitly bans fed funding for abortion, you're going to see the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade."
Ummm, "expansion?" Of what exactly? Watch out, abortion is on the loose again.
Every time I discuss abortion I find it necessary to mention that pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. A person identifying her or his self as pro-choice supports a woman's right to choose whether or not to be a parent at that time. Clearly, the anti-abortion stance does not take this into consideration. Just because abortion is an option does not mean it is the only choice for a woman.
Though the House passed the bill, the next step in the process is to put the bill before the Senate. The Senate's draft of the bill, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, (H.R.3590) has not yet passed.
Senator Ben Nelson upped the stakes on this bill. Nelson said that he would not vote for a bill unless it contains restrictive abortion provisions, as did the Stupak amendment. Women's health care becomes the center of the debate, again.
As the senate continues the health care act poker game, gambling with women's lives and bodies seems viable. Are we really worth so little? It is easy enough for Stupak, Nelson, and other members of The House and Senate to objectify women's bodies so as to settle a dispute. Well, it is only women- what are they worth? Sure, the Senate will pass the health bill - as long as women's health care provisions are pared down. Perhaps dramatic, but I imagine the Senate seated around a large, velvet-covered wood table and I can actually hear the conversation: "I see your 6 mammograms, 2 pap smears and abortion care for pre-existing conditions."
What I do not hear is, "Well, Ben, how about we toss prescription coverage for Viagra? Or testicular implants for men with testicular disease?"
Politicians trade abortion as a commodity. It all comes down to money. How much is this going to affect the bottom line of our economy and health care system?
Additionally, adding the restrictive language proposed both by Nelson and Stupak to the bill violates Obama's word to Americans: no one would not lose the present benefits they have. The health care reform act is supposed to improve the quality of health care for all Americans.
The landmark Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, decided on January 22, 1973 enabled a woman to choose to terminate her pregnancy. On the anniversary of this historic, controversial case decision, I beg the question: how far have we really come along the way?
Though a public health care plan in the U.S. would be remarkable -- imposing restrictions on women's health care is not. Affordable, quality health care for all Americans sounds like a brilliant idea to me. However, the language of the Stupak amendment cuts a woman's affordable access to comprehensive medical coverage, including reproductive health services like abortion. Essentially these restrictions leave women of lower economic brackets without a viable choice. Again? The right to choose an abortion is not the issue on the table.
In earnest, I am so sick of the abortion debate. Still, 37 years after Roe v. Wade I hear the same tired pro-life arguments: abortion is murder, abortion goes against The Bible ... Why is this issue still up for discussion? It is the year 2010 and women must still fight for ownership of their bodies. Tell me, at the end of the day, do the politicians governing our bodies truly care about our bodies or our babies or our bottom dollar?
Follow Jenna Henry Hansen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JennaHenryH