Throughout the 111th Session of Congress debate over healthcare reform, I kept screaming and hollering in these pages about the willingness of Democrats, including the President, to deal away the right to choose. By the time the health care bill hit the President's desk, the Democratic-controlled Congress had done just that.
Most onerous in the law was the stipulation that no individual participant in an insurance company plan offered by a state-based health insurance exchange be permitted to use public funds to cover the procedure.
But along the way, an even worse proposal was offered up, the so-called Stupak Amendment, which would have expressly prohibited any insurer participating in a state-based exchange from offering abortion coverage, if it wished to receive any federal funds to subsidize the other coverage it would offer.
Now, Representative Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania, a co-author of the Stupak Amendment, is chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance programs -- jurisdiction over all of us, the people and institutions that his proposed amendment would hurt so horribly.
I've started getting e-mails again from the Beltway pro-choice advocates.
The consensus in their community is that the Pitts' plan is the pits: Laurie Rubiner, vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said Pitts "is... as anti-choice as a member of Congress can be."
Those of us out in the hinterlands, way outside the Beltway, have known for years that the Beltway-focused Congressional lobbying strategy--now gearing up again--to keep abortion safe and legal wasn't working. Some of us have been screaming about this for years, but to no avail.
Last summer, when Pitts' handiwork was clear in the regulations Secretary Sebelius proposed for operations of the state health insurance exchanges, I even went so far as to write a long, and, I thought, thoughtful memo, to one of my inside-the-Beltway, powerful feminist friends to say that it was time--past time--to do something new and different.
My memo proposed we gear up in the fall, fall 2010, and get moving by Election Day 2010, because things looked bad, whichever way we turned. Well, that memo went exactly nowhere.
Maybe, someone else had a similar idea and a big plan is being concocted, which I'll hear about soon.
Anyway, now the proof is in the pudding of 45 new anti-choice members led by a virulently anti-choice Speaker.
Time for a new deal like the old new deal--a big deal.
Pitts needs to be surrounded, diminished, made to look like an ogre, shown to be unfeeling, harassed at every turn, picketed at his fundraisers, criticized in his hometown papers, and ostracized by his fellow members,.
Yes, I know he's got at least 45 friends who feel just like him, along with the backing of the Speaker and the Republican House majority.
Yes, I know you say that one of the great things about the Beltway, nowadays, is that compromise is in the air. Well, the Pitts (Stupak) Amendment isn't compromise; it's war on American women.
While Pitts is being harassed, ostracized, criticized, picketed and protested by those of us outside the Beltway, I propose that the pro-choice members hit him in another place where it really hurts: Don't invite him to participate in any partnership, in any compromise, in any circumstance in which he might then be perceived as reasonable. Because he isn't.
The American public might be deceived into thinking so, if you allow him to participate in some other sort of legislation that seems like an OK deal. But there is just no reason for you, the pro-choice members, to do that, when Pitts' very reason for being in Congress is to deny American women the right to control their own bodies. Proof? Here is what the National Right to Life Committee had to say: "[Pitts has] made the protection of the sanctity of innocent human life the cornerstone of his service in the House."
Beltway deal-making, not safe and legal abortion, kills. When abortion becomes so hard to get it's as though the procedure were illegal, it is no time for backslapping and deal making. It is time for profiles in courage.
Pitts is the pits. Time to throw out the rotten apples, pits and all.