For years, we've had our eye on the Supreme Court, wondering with each new judicial appointment how that person would add to the mix on the longevity of reproductive rights, including the right to an abortion. Who knew that some dude named Bart Stupak would be the one to really start to topple our reproductive constitutional rights through the health care budget process? I was more worried about Justices Scalia and Thomas, and now it turns out I should have been focusing on some Congressman from Michigan.
Not even Senator Claire McCaskill gets it, telling cable news networks that Stupak's proposal to limit abortion coverage isn't all that bad. But the reality is this -- if the Stupak provision remains in the health care legislation that gets signed by President Obama, it will impact all women because of the way the new system will be structured. The Stupak amendment doesn't just preclude the use of federal dollars to cover abortion procedures -- even if you're paying for your own health insurance or get it through your employer, if that insurance company participates at all in the insurance "exchange" that gets created to implement reform, it won't be able to provide abortion coverage, even if no federal dollars are being used for a particular patient.
And how will those procedures get defined? Odds are that procedures after miscarriages or D&C's also won't be covered because they get characterized by hospitals as "abortions."
The short, non-wonky version of where we are? We're screwed.
My entry for the Washington Post "Next Great Pundit" contest, focused on how right wing conservative men are chipping away at women's rights. I thought it was bad enough that Senators were mocking women's health and that they just mentioned their desire to limit reproductive rights as part of their debate.
Maybe I should have been more concerned about the Democrats who are all wishy-washy about what the state of reproductive rights will be when our daughters are adults. Democrats stepped aside and said nothing when our ability to access contraception was severely limited through the stimulus package. Now, many are strangely silent or ambivalent about allowing the health care reform package to do what the Supreme Court hasn't yet -- take away the right to an abortion unless you have the cash in hand to pay for it yourself.
Why isn't President Obama lending his voice to any of the debate on this? He seems happy enough to stand up for Wall Street bankers and ensure that they'll get big, whopping bonuses even though they were the major culprits in our economy's crash. But when it comes to serious health issues that will impact millions of women, he's awfully quiet.
As a 50-something mom, I admit I've reached that peri-menopausal state of my life where pregnancy and contraception are only marginally on my radar screen. But our daughter is almost 10. Whether I like it or not, soon we'll be having "the talk" and after that I know it's not that far down the adolescent road that we'll need to make sure she knows about how to not get pregnant. I have no way of knowing what kind of insurance we will have at that point or whether she will have access to what I did as a young woman or whether she'll be thrown back into a time when even married couples had to fight for contraception.
My question for President Obama is this -- if you were still just Barry Obama, living in a middle class neighborhood in Chicago with two daughters, and you didn't have to worry about the appearance of being all bi-partisan and Presidential, what would your real thoughts be on making sure that your girls, if they needed it, had access to their constitutionally protected right to birth control and abortion? I bet you and Michelle would be standing up for them and speaking up loudly. Since you're the President, that's exactly what I expect you to do for my daughter.
I know we all hope and pray that we won't ever have to worry about our girls when it comes to preventing or dealing with unwanted pregnancies, but we all know the realities of life. Sometimes things happen that you don't plan for. And our kids don't always make the choices we hope they'll make. So as long as they have rights that are still protected under the Constitution, it's your obligation to make sure that special interests don't undercut them.
President Obama, remember when you were sworn in as number 44 and you put your hand on that Lincoln bible and you swore to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States? That didn't just mean the original document -- that meant all the law that's been made since then and the interpretation of the Constitution by the Supreme Court, including Roe v. Wade and the cases that struck down state laws that made contraception illegal. It really is time for you to stop parsing words when it comes to reproductive rights in the name of trying to find a middle ground with the right because soon there won't be anything left to parse. I don't want to have to tell my daughter that you don't care about her rights as a female, but the longer you're silent, the closer I am to having that discussion.
Joanne Bamberger is a professional writer, political and social media analyst and is the founder of the political blog, PunditMom. Her work appears in the forthcoming collection, Kirtsy Takes a Bow: A Celebration of Women's Online Favorites and Courageous Parenting. Joanne's book about the increasing political involvement of mothers will be published by Bright Sky Press in Fall 2010.