Message To Obama: Abort The Stupak-Pitts Amendment

Another day, another moment to be reminded that the Stupak-Pitts amendment still sucks. Luckily, concerned citizens have noticed that this shit isn''t going to fly. But with Obama still searching for common ground with anti-choicers, will peoples' protests be heard?

In a new interview with ABC News, Obama explains that the wedge issues currently receiving so much attention weren't really the point of the bill:

You know, I laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill. And we're not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions.

And I want to make sure that the provision that emerges meets that test — that we are not in some way sneaking in funding for abortions, but, on the other hand, that we're not restricting women's insurance choices, because one of the pledges I made in that same speech was to say that if you're happy and satisfied with the insurance that you have, that it's not going to change.

So, you know, this is going to be a complex set of negotiations. I'm confident that we can actually arrive at this place where neither side feels that it's being betrayed. But it's going to take some time.

I still hate that "sneaking in funding for abortions" line: It's like the lawmakers heard the cries for affordable premiums and comprehensive coverage, and thought Yeah, but what about all those unscrupulous whores scheming to use their health care coverage to go to abortion parties and make fetus-necklaces? WTF? Doesn't the Hyde Amendment go far enough?

Melissa McEwan at Shakesville thinks Obama's milquetoast cry for unity is a crock:

There is no fucking "common ground" between people who believe in women's right to autonomy over their own bodies and people who believe that women's bodies are property of the government, or their doctors, or their husbands, or anyone else who gets a vote on whether they have to be pregnant even if they don't want to be. Either you stand on the side of women's equality and independence or you don't.

It is fucking ludicrous that our DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENT refuses to take a stand on this issue.

And this mealy-mouthed bullshit-"I laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill"-is contemptibly craven. I'm absolutely fucking livid that a man who had the audacity to claim to be a champion of women's right to choose would abandon women in this way.

Nancy Pelosi is cool with her decision, saying:

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday that while she opposes an anti-abortion amendment to the House version of the health care bill, it was necessary for the measure to pass.

The California Democrat said the language to prohibit the new government insurance plan from covering abortions "would have been in the bill one way or another." She said backers of the far-reaching legislation to overhaul the U.S. health care system thought it was better to have the language included as an amendment to be voted on than as a provision "that could take down the whole bill."

Pelosi, please. Why didn't you launch a counter-attack explaining that certain factions want to use health care reform as a weapon for their pet issue? Put some pressure on people! They had no problem making issues out of non issues, as is made clear by these comments from Senator Kent Conrad:

"I think all of us have recognized throughout that there are three things" - abortion, illegal immigration and the public option - "that could really bring this down," said Conrad, the only Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee to vote with Republicans on amendments restricting abortion rights.

The only thing that should have conceivably been on that list is the public option. But abortion and the issues of undocumented workers and resources? It's trumped up bullshit, preventing people from paying attention to little asides like this one:

Summarizing her study of the bill over the past 10 weeks, [Senator Susan] Collins said it was "too timid" in revamping the health care system to reward high-quality care. She said the bill included "billions of dollars in new taxes and fees that will drive up the cost of health insurance premiums."

And she noted that many of the taxes would take effect before the government started providing subsidies to low- and middle-income people to help them buy insurance.

Thus, Ms. Collins said, "there will be a gap for even low-income people where the effect of these fees will be passed on to consumers and increase premiums before any subsidies are available to offset those costs."

The bill sets standards for the value of insurance policies, stipulating that they must cover at least 65 percent of medical costs, on average.

Most policies sold in the individual insurance market in Maine do not meet those standards, Ms. Collins said, so many insurers would have to raise premiums to comply with the requirements. As a result, she said, the premium for a 40-year-old buying the most popular individual insurance policy in Maine would more than double, to $455 a month.

Wait, wait, wait - what? Fuck this, let's call Angie from Politifact on this one.

In the meantime, NPR published a quick guide to the language, noting:

Government Money: In general, government money cannot be used to pay for abortion. The government-administered health plan - often called the public option - will not cover abortion, unless a doctor certifies that a woman is in danger of death without one, or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

If you get your health insurance through the government, or with help from the government in the form of a tax subsidy, your plan will not cover abortion. In this case, you would have the right to buy extra coverage - with your own money.

If you get your health insurance through your state, as in Medicaid, your state could buy supplemental abortion coverage for everyone it insures. And 17 states already do this under Medicaid.

The Exchange: The next section of the abortion amendment deals with the exchange. That's the government-administered service where people can buy insurance and join a risk pool. One of the reasons health care is so expensive for people who don't get it through their work is that they're not in a large risk pool. The bill tries to group them together and cut costs for everyone.

Private insurance companies that offer a health plan through the exchange are allowed to cover abortion. But if they're going to, the companies must also offer another plan that is identical in every way, except that it does not cover abortion.

So, say you're buying insurance with your own money, and you get it through the exchange. You can choose a policy that covers abortion, or one that doesn't. But if you're getting help from the government to buy that insurance - in the form of a tax subsidy - you may not choose a plan that covers abortion. You are still allowed to buy a supplemental policy with your own money.

Private Insurance: The Stupak amendment does not apply to private insurance bought with private money. It is also not close to becoming law. The Senate bill does not have similar language, though lawmakers on both sides of the debate are now looking at it.

Politifact goes a bit further, denying a lot of the pro-choice rhetoric surrounding Stupid-Shits, saying that there is no proof that doomsday is on the way. Taking on Representative Nita Lowey's comments, Politifact writes:

But Lowey said the amendment "puts new restrictions on women's access to abortion coverage in the private health insurance market even when they would pay premiums with their own money." We believe that Lowey's formulation is, at best, misleading. The people who would truly pay all of the premium with their own money — and who would not use federal subsidies at all — are not barred in any way from obtaining abortion coverage, even if they obtain their insurance from the federally administered health exchange.

Lowey's office counters that exchange participants who get the subsidies do indeed pay a share of their premiums with their own money, maybe even a majority of the cost. But if that's what Lowey meant, she should have said abortion coverage would be prohibited "even when they pay part, or most, of their premiums with their own money." Not making that distinction, combined with her failure to specify that she was discussing only people who use the exchange, suggests that the restrictions are more severe and widespread than they actually are.

Some in the abortion-rights community do actually make a stronger case that the amendment would harm individuals who pay for their coverage without subsidies. This line of argument involves what insurance companies might do from a business perspective in response to the amendment.

Some critics say that the amendment throws up enough obstacles against offering abortion coverage on the health exchange — particularly the requirement to offer two separate plans, one of them without abortion provisions — that insurers will simply take the path of least resistance and offer a single plan that leaves out abortion coverage. Some also argue that companies will be reluctant to offer riders for abortion coverage, or that there won't be much demand for them. This could indirectly diminish the abortion coverage options for people on the exchange who don't take subsidies, even though the law doesn't limit their options directly.

There's plenty of room for debate about how the Stupak-Pitts amendment will eventually shape the availability of abortion coverage.

There is tons of room for debate, especially when the assumption is that women are the unscrupulous whores, and not the "profits over patients" philosophy of insurance companies. They're supposed to trust the same people that classified domestic violence as a pre-existing condition and denied a four month old coverage for being fat? And they're supposed to trust that what they produce won't amount to an abortion penalty? Not happening. Even if insurance companies still offer the same coverage they always have, it would amount to the middle class facing what poor women have since the 70s - when you accept government funds, you are giving the government the right to dictate the decisions you make about your life and your well being. Planned Parenthood is calling it "the middle class abortion ban," but any way you slice it, the ramifications of this amendment are far reaching.

Still, the debate promises to get more interesting. There are rumors swirling about former President Bill Clinton getting involved with health care reform, and one of the staunchest Roe foes, Senator Bob Casey, has stated "health care reform should not be used to change longstanding policies regarding federal financing of abortion which has been in place since 1976."

Curiouser and Curiouser.


TRANSCRIPT: ABC News Exclusive Interview with President Barack Obama
[ABC News]
Pelosi discusses health care bill on Seattle tour [AP]
Senate faces abortion rights rift [Politico]
Obama Seeks Revision of Plan's Abortion Limits [NY Times]
Official Site [Politifact]
Breaking Down Abortion Language In Health Bill [NPR]
Lowey says Stupak amendment restricts abortion coverage even for those who pay for their own plan [Politifact]
Too Fat for Health Insurance? At Four Months? [ABC News]
"Middle-class abortion ban" [Politico]
Bill Clinton Tackles Senate Abortion Rift [CBS News]
Casey: No new abortion restrictions in bill [Politico]

Earlier:

Reproductive Rights Left Behind After Health Care Bill Passes House
Democrats Vow To Eliminate Domestic Violence As Pre-Existing Condition