In my memo to the Democratic women members of Congress the other day, I noted that since:
1) not a single male member of the House or Senate has stood-up and said that insuring equitable access to women's reproductive health care, including access to abortion, is requisite to health care reform, and that since
2) the President has said nothing, nada, zilch, about the fundamental
sex discrimination inherent in Nelson/Stupak-type legislation, nor about its deleterious effect on women's health,
these women should gather together, and walk over to the White House and say:
It's time to start over with this so-called healthcare bill. We're not buying your Hobson's Choice and neither are the women of America. We know who we represent, and we're here to fight for them. And we won't leave, not a single one of us, until this fight is over, and we have won a healthcare bill that actually recognizes the health care needs of American women.
Sadly for the women of America, this hasn't happened.
Instead, in the week since I suggested this strategy, the Senate's discussion of its health care bill has devolved from farce to tragedy, from public policy discussion to an insider traders' deal-making session, in which female and male senators alike are trading the lives of American women for the sake of re-election and keeping their corporate donors happy.
Here's the proof: The public option is gone; the Medicare opt-in for middle-aged Americans who can't get private insurance is gone; and there is negotiation of a "compromise" on abortion, which, since Senator Nelson has already rejected its first iteration, is about to go from really, really bad to really, really worse.
Meanwhile, not a single Democratic woman Senator, not one, has stood-up, in this week since Senator Nelson's anti-abortion bill was defeated, and said to him: Enough already. Your bill was defeated. Our side won. Your side lost. Women's equal access to reproductive health care will be a part of the Senate health care bill because we will insist on it until it's done.
Not one of the Democratic women Senators has said, to paraphrase David Axelrod's comments of Thursday morning: "[The health care bill] should be about [women] who need help."
Not one has said: At least half the American people needing help are women, and so far the Senate's bill isn't giving them the help they need. We won't vote for any bill until it includes that help.
Meanwhile, here's what Senator Nelson said this week about his approach to the healthcare bill: "There isn't any real way to move away from your principle on abortion."
Now there's someone to respect. He's got the courage of his convictions. He actually has a position of principle from which he won't budge.He has a principle, based on his moral beliefs, that guides the political decisions he makes.
What a concept.
On the other hand, here's what Senator Boxer said on the same day: "What I'm after is the status quo."
And what might that status quo be? Well, it is the "Hyde Amendment," which prohibits the federal government from paying for abortions for poor women covered by Medicaid.
Talk about tragedy: The best we can get is a Democratic woman Senator advocating for second-class citizenship for her poorer sisters.
But wait, there's more. Another scene in this week's tragedy is the one where the Senators dropped the public option.
It's bad enough that Senator Lieberman held the nation hostage to his personal political agenda, but the real problem on the public-option front is that the lack of any sort of public option, including an opt-in to Medicare, is another slam at women: Here are the facts: Women live longer, so they need healthcare longer; women take better care of themselves, so they seek healthcare services more frequently; by and large, women are poorer than men; so, they need the public option more than men do.
Not a whisper about this either from any of the women Senators.
And then there's the scene in (this) tragedy in which the leader declaims his (bogus) call for 60 votes to pass his bill. A majority is all that's needed to pass any bill. So, why does Harry Reid say he needs 60? Well, so he and his band of merry pranksters can avoid the unpleasantness of a filibuster.
I ask you: So what if the Republicans filibuster: History and the American people are not on their side. Why should the Democratic Senators be--by virtue of their willingness to dumb-down their bill to get a filibuster-proof majority?
Not a single Democratic woman Senator has stood up and said to Harry Reid that this bill you want 60 votes for won't work for the women of America. Let's go back to the drawing board, and then, if the Republicans filibuster, so-be-it; they're still in-the wrong, but, unlike them, we've done the right thing, and we're willing to (keep) fighting for it. In fact, we'll filibuster right back, if that's what it takes.
If the bottom line in all this is that we won't be getting healthcare reform, but we might be getting health care finance reform, is it too much to ask that the Democratic women members of the House and Senate insist on eliminating any kind of two-tiered system for paying for abortions -- one for the rich and one for the poor. Is it too much to ask that they say to do otherwise isn't reform of any kind; it's the same bad business as usual, and we won't have it?
I can understand someone who believes abortion is wrong and must be prohibited under all circumstances; hence, my respect for Senator Nelson. What I don't understand is women who are complicit in the use of government power to deny their poorer sisters access to the health care they, the richer sisters, get. This looks like what we used to call in the 1970s "identifying with the oppressor." It's still a very bad idea.
So, here's this week's talking point for the Democratic women Senators:
Have the courage of your convictions: Stand-up, and say what Ben Nelson said: "There isn't any real way to move away from your principle on abortion, and we won't."
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