On Nov. 7, U.S. Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan introduced an amendment to the Affordable Health Care for America Act (HR 3962) which effectively reversed much of the progress that we have made for women’s reproductive rights since Roe v. Wade in 1973.
Currently, because of the Hyde Amendment of 1976, it is illegal for federal funds to be used for abortions other than in cases of harm to the mother, rape or incest.
The Stupak Amendment goes further than the Hyde Amendment’s policy by tightening restrictions on abortion funding. Under H.R. 3962, many people would be federally subsidized when it comes to purchasing insurance coverage. Due to the Stupak Amendment, federally funded programs may not fund abortions, and incentives for private health insurers to provide coverage will be diminished since the market will no longer be profitable due to scarcity of un-subsidized customers.
According to Planned Parenthood, an organization dedicated to reproductive rights, the amendment forces millions of women to lose benefits that they currently have and it prevents millions more from getting the kind of private sector health care coverage that most women have access to today.
Furthermore, the Stupak Amendment clearly displays an anti-choice agenda strongly persuaded by interest groups. According to a Nov. 11 Associated Press article, Stupak recognized the Catholic bishops’ influence in the bill’s passing when he said, “The Catholic Church used their power – their clout, if you will – to influence this issue. They had to. It’s a basic teaching of the religion.”
The Stupak Amendment compels those that wish to have abortions to abstain from doing so through economic coercion. Moreover, there is no reason that abortion should be set apart from any other medical procedure. Posing such restrictions to access to medical abortions only increases the risk of dangerous, back-alley procedures.
In addition, the amendment suggests that women who would like abortion coverage should purchase a rider: an optional add-on to their health insurance. This suggestion is inadequate since women can not anticipate an unplanned pregnancies more than they can plan for a heart attack. This is even more outrageous since the same groups that support this amendment are the ones that have historically opposed medical birth control and have constantly supported abstinence-only education.
The Stupak Amendment blatantly disregards our constitutional rights as Americans through economic coercion. The momentous H.R. 3962 should not be an issue of pro-life vs. pro-choice. Instead, it should respect the fact that abortions are legal no matter the circumstances. Therefore, all abortions should be funded in a government healthcare plan and any federally subsided health insurance plans that derive from it.
Hopefully, the senators who are to vote on the bill will spend less time with Catholic bishops and more time with women who are in need of a voice for their reproductive health. It would be despicable to go back in time to a country where the only option women have is a risky, wire-hanger abortion. I hope that the Senate will vote to pass H.R. 3962 without this restrictive amendment