As predicted, the US House of Representatives has passed HR 358, otherwise known as the "Protect Life Act," otherwise known as the bill that would allow hospitals to let women to die rather than perform a life-saving abortion. Every single Republican in the House supported the measure, and 11 Democrats crossed the aisle to join their life-protecting brethren. USA! USA! USA!
While the bill is unlikely to pass the Senate (and even if it did, it would almost certainly be vetoed by President Obama), last night's orgy of meaningless pro-life political grandstanding brought us a debate that is all colors of horrible.
Bill sponsor Joe Pitts (R-PA), who harbors a well known crush on all fetuses, claims that he penned the legislation in order to close a legal loophole, that it just extends regulations that already prohibit federal funds from covering abortions to the Affordable Care Act. The bill's designed, he says, to prohibit any insurance plan that receives federal subsidies. If enacted, insurance plans offered on the new exchanges proposed by the health care reform law would be banned from covering abortion if even one person enrolling in the plan receives federal subsidies. Because many, many people would be receiving federal insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, this bill would effectively ban private insurance from covering abortion for anyone, no matter who is paying their insurance premiums.
In spite of the shit sandwich that is the rest of the proposed law, it gets worse. As we mentioned earlier this week, the the bill contains a provision that would let hospitals that receive federal subsidies refuse to treat women seeking abortions, no matter the circumstances.
It's depressing that in this day and age, what happens inside a woman's skin is still up for political debate, and many Congresswomen took to the floor last night to express their rage. In response, they got championship level dickery and insensitivity.
Of the measure, former House speaker Nancy Pelosi said,
Under this bill, when the Republicans vote for this bill today, they will be voting to say that women can die on the floor of health care providers ... it's just appalling. I can't even describe to you the logic of what they are doing today.
California's Jackie Speier pleaded for the necessity of the availability of abortion in order to save women's lives; she'd undergone a life-saving abortion after her body started to miscarry. She told her colleagues that if she would have had to travel to another hospital for the procedure, if the hospital where she initially landed had refused to help her, she might have died.
North Carolina Republican and Unrepentant Asshole Virginia Foxx ignored the living, breathing woman in front of her and appealed to her stalwart pro-fetus stance in a confusing ramble in response,
For my colleagues across the aisle who say that this is a misogynist bill, nobody has ever fought more for the rights of women than I have. Fifty percent of the unborn babies that are being aborted are females. So the misogyny comes from those that promote the killing of unborn babies. That's where the misogyny comes in, Madame Speaker.
In addition to changing the gender of the Speaker of the House, Foxx said what many social conservatives in support of this bill are obviously thinking. This isn't about funding, and it isn't about closing loopholes. It's about making abortion so difficult to obtain that only the privileged few can afford it. Conservatives want to show their constituents that they will put the rights of an embryo before the rights of a woman.
The whole thing is — to put it in the nicest, most polite words I can muster — fucking absurd. It's insulting on so many levels — to all women who are being told that their lives are not worth as much as a fetus, to the American public, who should be smart enough to call this bit of bullshit out as political theater and a waste of government time and resources (or to understand that, since 1 in 3 women get abortions in their lifetimes and since most major corporations include abortion coverage in their employee health care plans no matter what they do, some of their precious money is going toward paying for abortion), to the entire concept of American democracy, which is not supposed to be a system where the powerful few get to determine the rights of the oppressed many.