The alarming trend to provide opt-out loopholes in federal health care laws continues, with some new and dangerous twists on restricting access to birth control and abortions coming at the state level.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) has introduced an amendment to an unrelated bill that would severely restrict the ability of insured employees to get essential or preventive health care services if an employer or health insurance company, religious or not, objects on the basis of religious beliefs or moral convictions.
He has targeted birth control and abortions, of course, but the broad sweep of his amendment could also deny access to any health service, including maternity care for unmarried women, vaccines for children, blood transfusions, HIV/AIDS treatment, or Type II Diabetes screenings, according to the Coalition to Protect Women's Health Care.
Blunt's attack on the Affordable Care Act is an attack on all of us, and it has dire implications for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.
We, who are often defamed as "immoral," are especially vulnerable under Blunt's blunt instrument. After all, the Reagan administration blocked distribution of condoms and safe-sex education materials because gay men, initially the hardest-hit group by the HIV epidemic, did not qualify for government support, due to their supposed immoral behavior. We suffered and died without federal intervention until a public health outcry in the mid-1980s forced the federal government to take the AIDS epidemic seriously as a public health disaster. So, Blunt would subject us to a new round of health care and preventive treatment restrictions that could have a dire impact on all our lives.
But even further, what of transgender people who seek health insurance coverage for their medical care? What of lesbians and bisexual women seeking infertility treatments or wanting to end a medically risky pregnancy? Transgender people, lesbians, and bi women already struggle to gain access to health care. Under Blunt's new world order, employers and insurers have the blessing of the federal government to deny insurance coverage for any employees whose lives they deem not moral enough for equitable health care.
Let's turn to Virginia, the state for lovers. On Valentine's Day, the Virginia House of Delegates voted to invade women's vaginas and to declare that "personhood" begins at the moment of conception, even before implantation. Yes, a fertilized egg may be deemed a "person" in Virginia and presumably would be "murdered" by pre-implantation birth control methods. At the same time, women who sought abortions would have been forced to undergo the invasive insertion of transvaginal ultrasonic probes in order to shame or humiliate them to continue their pregnancy.
Lawmakers have since backed off the proposal requiring transvaginal ultrasounds after Gov. Bob McDonnell said this week that he wouldn't support it. Still, they did approve an amended bill requiring an external ultrasound designed to coerce women. (In the latest developments, the Virginia Senate abruptly voted yesterday to end consideration of the bill, but it could be revived in the next session.)
The degradation of women's lives and health decisions rolls on, as does the elevation of fertilized eggs to the status of persons, a proposal that has been rejected by voters in Colorado (twice) and in Mississippi.
Happy Valentine's Day 1962! If a corporation is a person, surely eggs as persons can't be far behind, with the accompanying tools of the state being forcefully applied to torment women who seek to end a pregnancy. And by the way, these same Virginia legislators earlier in the session approved a bill to allow private adoption and foster care agencies to turn away parents for reasons including religious faith or sexual orientation.
The Virginia Republican majority wants to impose its religious or moral objections to birth control and abortion on all women who want to use family planning methods to plan their families.
Blunt takes it a step further and wants the religious or moral compass of employers to determine who receives health care. If these legislators have their way, we will soon be seeking back-alley birth control pills, back-alley abortions, back-alley infertility treatment, back-alley hormones, and back-alley HIV/AIDS medications.
LGBT people have heard before that our lives are unworthy of dignity. The disparagements of our bodily integrity and control over our health care decisions ricochet off the walls of disregard for us and for women, and they smack of sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. Women and LGBT people live in the echo chamber of contempt for our rights to chart the course of our lives.
This fresh assault on the freedoms to make health care decisions without invasive governmental intrusions underscores the danger that it might be 1962 again, when contraception and abortion were illegal, when LGBT people were freaks to be stomped out, and when we lived under a regime of heterosexist supremacy and moralistic control.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force joined the Coalition to Protect Women's Health because 2012 is the year to stand up for health care access. No more compassion-free political games with our lives!
For more information about the Blunt amendment and other federal assaults on health care access, visit http://www.coalitiontoprotectwomenshealth.org/.