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Damn, We Need a “Morning After the Health Care Bill” Pill

By Debra Sweet, Director of World Can’t Wait

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Thanks to scientists who studied female reproduction, there are women in the world fortunate enough to have access to the birth control pill.  Take a few of them after being raped, or any kind of unprotected sex where one fears pregnancy, and the “morning after pill” prevents implantation of any fertilized egg.

But what do you do the morning after you’ve been politically attacked so deeply you feel it in the gut and you’d like to vomit from the White House down the Mall to Congress?  We need a “morning after the health care bill” pill.

Because the so-called “health-care reform” passed by the Democrats yesterday rolls the bus over the bodies of women now, and in future, denied access to abortion, and the right to control their own bodies.  We knew this was coming, and yet, the way it was done twists “the change you can believe in” knife deeper into the wound of the body politic.

This whole “reform” process isn’t over at all, and I don’t think anyone can predict just what will happen.  Except that for sure, women are screwed, and there is no pill to save us.   Who should we be angry at?  Obama, Pelosi, all the Democrats, the Republicans, the tea-baggers, the health care “industry,” and some in the women’s movement.

For 4 months, we’ve been protesting the Stupak Amendment, the move by anti-abortion Democrats to further remove access to abortion under the guise of “reform.”  Stupak, et al, wouldn’t go for Obama’s health care bill without it.

If you missed the news because you’ve been protesting for immigrant rights or against the U.S. illegitimate wars all weekend, or otherwise not paying attention, the savior of the health bill is Barack Obama’s Executive Order “ensuring enforcement and implementation of abortion restrictions in the patient protection and affordable care act.”

An Executive Order has the force of a law, except…it does not need to be reaffirmed every year, as the restrictions on abortion for poor women in the Hyde Amendment, part of appropriation bills, have had to be.  In fact, it’s permanent.

Meaning, according to Feministing:

The status quo was terrible to begin with. The Hyde Amendment bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion, restricting access for women on Medicaid, military personnel and families, those who receive care through Indian Health Services, and women on disability insurance. The Nelson “compromise” expands these limitations to the exchange set up through health reform. The use of private funds to pay for abortion will be restricted, with women having to write separate checks for abortion coverage and the rest of their health care. A George Washington University study and subsequent analysis suggest this will lead to the elimination of all insurance coverage for abortion services.

They conclude that “for U.S. women Barack Obama is an anti-choice president.”  Yes, from the “common ground” with the anti-abortion agenda last spring, to enforcement of their agenda this spring.

The Washington Post summarizes:

ABORTION: The bill tries to maintain a strict separation between taxpayer dollars and private premiums that would pay for abortion coverage. No health plan would be required to offer coverage for abortion. In plans that do cover abortion, policyholders would have to pay for it separately, and that money would have to be kept in a separate account from taxpayer money. States could ban abortion coverage in plans offered through the exchange. Exceptions would be made for cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother. [my emphasis].

According to Chris Hedges, we also have no “reform” of health care.  On Truthdig, he goes after the giant gift the bill represents to insurance companies:

The claims made by the proponents of the bill are the usual deceptive corporate advertising. The bill will not expand coverage to 30 million uninsured, especially since government subsidies will not take effect until 2014. Families who cannot pay the high premiums, deductibles and co-payments, estimated to be between 15 and 18 percent of most family incomes, will have to default, increasing the number of uninsured. Insurance companies can unilaterally raise prices without ceilings or caps and monopolize local markets to shut out competitors. The $1.055 trillion spent over the next decade will add new layers of bureaucratic red tape to what is an unmanageable and ultimately unsustainable system.

Passage of the bill consumed much of the progressive movement over the last year, as people’s aspirations shrunk from the demand of “single payer” to “public option” to well, whatever the Republican minority would allow.  The fact that some claim this bill as a victory only shows how low their sights have fallen in accommodating to attacks from the right.

The right is not going to be satisfied, no matter how far you cave in, anyway.  Bart Stupak was going to get a “Defenders for Life” award, but because he “caved in” to the “most pro-abortion” President in history, he lost it (!).  Another Congressman, Randy Neugebauer, from Texas, yelled “baby killer!” while Stupak was speaking in favor of the bill.  So, even though Stupak listens to “leading bishops, Focus on the Family, and The National Right to Life Committee” when drafting legislation, he is not far enough to the right for the anti-abortion movement which wants nothing less than women utterly subservient to men.  See Jodi Jacobsen’s Bart Stupak: I Don’t Listen To Nuns.

Tea Baggers Come out as the Racists They AreTea Baggers Come out as the Racists They Are; March 20, 2010 at the US Capitol

The right-wing “tea bagger” opponents of the health care bill –clearly orchestrated and led by forces for whom this is  about much more than just health care — were out by the thousands surrounding the Capitol on Saturday.

At least their white supremacist agenda came out very openly. Three Black US representatives, including John Lewis and James Clyburn, were called the “n” word, and one was spit on.  Rep. Barney Frank, who is openly gay, was called “faggot.”

McClatchy Newspapers quoted Clyburn,

“I heard people saying things today I’ve not heard since March 15th, 1960, when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus,” Clyburn said. “This is incredible, shocking to me.”

Republican Congressmen (and one woman) were on a Capitol balcony egging them on like frat-boys at a football game.  Check out The Right Wing Populist Eruption: Yes, It Actually IS Racism in Revolution newspaper for an analysis of where this movement comes from.

But this is not a game.  Reporters on MSNBC reported never having heard shouts inside the Capital while a vote was going on.  They may not have been there in the 60’s when there was fear from inside the government that student anti-war protests would destabilize the government.   But that was hundreds of thousands of righteously angry people back then, whereas these right-wingers gathered on Sunday in the thousands only (but were given much more physical access to the Capital than any recent anti-war, pro-immigrant rights or women’s rights protests).

I give credit to a few proponents of women’s rights who braved the tea-bagger crowd at the Capitol, getting attacked by them for opposing the health care bill for the “wrong” reasons, and for being “baby-killers.”  Had we not been at the other end of the mall protesting the illegitimate occupations of Iraq & Afghanistan at the White House, I would have been there with them.  But all of the organizations supporting abortion should have been out there, going toe-to-toe with the right wingers, and having OUR voices heard inside the halls of Congress.

Instead, we hear this kind of thing from Planned Parenthood, which hailed the health care bill as a “victory:”

we regret that a pro-choice president of a pro-choice nation was forced to sign an Executive Order that further codifies the proposed anti-choice language in the health care reform bill, originally proposed by Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska.  What the president’s executive order did not do is include the complete and total ban on private health insurance coverage for abortion that Congressman Bart Stupak (D–MI) had insisted upon.

But the people who raise money for young, poor, and rural women to get abortions, the National Network of Abortion Funds, said:

“At this very moment, a woman is rationing the food left in her pantry, further delaying her electricity bill, and facing heavy penalties on her late mortgage payment — all because she cannot pay for an abortion she needs. This is the cruel legacy of the Hyde Amendment, a legacy that President Obama renewed yesterday by signing an executive order to appease a handful of legislators who represented no one’s interests but their own. As a nation, we demanded that health care reform address the inherent inequality and unfairness in our existing system. But with the stroke of his pen, President Obama expanded the Hyde Amendment’s guarantee of inequality and unfairness. Because of the Hyde Amendment, every year nearly 200,000 women who cannot afford abortion care must make extreme sacrifices in order to pay for a basic health care procedure.

There is no pill that’s going to make the right-wing assault on abortion rights stop; nor one for the structural lopsidedness of our society causing the suffering from denial of health care benefits in this capitalist-imperialist economy.

There does need to be a decisive settling of what’s really in the interests of the people, both of this country, and of the world.  None of terms represented in this health care battle are what we should accept.  So we have to wake up and stop accommodating them.

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