Whose Health Care Victory?

I'm sure you've heard by now that the House passed a health-care reform bill last night. I got this lovely e-mail from Barack Obama telling me what a victory this is:

This evening, at 11:15 p.m., the House of Representatives voted to pass their health insurance reform bill. Despite countless attempts over nearly a century, no chamber of Congress has ever before passed comprehensive health reform. This is history.

But you and millions of your fellow Organizing for America supporters didn't just witness history tonight -- you helped make it. ... You stood up. You spoke up. And you were heard.

Actually, I wasn't heard. Because I think I made pretty damn clear (as did Obama, in several speeches during the campaign) that reproductive health care is essential health care.

So what is this Stupak amendment doing attached to the health-reform bill? You know, that amendment that takes away women's access to health care? It reads:

The amendment will prohibit federal funds for abortion services in the public option. It also prohibits individuals who receive affordability credits from purchasing a plan that provides elective abortions. However, it allows individuals, both who receive affordability credits and who do not, to separately purchase with their own funds plans that cover elective abortions. It also clarifies that private plans may still offer elective abortions.

[Update: A few more details at LGM.] As Sarah Jaffe put it, "Bart Stupak thinks he knows what I can do with my body. And Congress is voting to let him make that choice." Sixty-four Democrats voted to take away women's right to medical care. Shocker of shockers, they're all the vast majority are dudes. A couple of them are even men who have claimed to be pro-choice.

Writes Pilgrim Soul,

Charmingly I expect that in the next few days all your liberal dude friends will be trying to explain to you that this is really no big deal, look, they had to get the Republicans/"Democrats" onboard SOMEHOW, this is just a battle but we won the war, etc etc.

Actually, they'll be explaining that it's not a big deal because the Stupak amendment can be stripped out by the conference committee (which I very much hope it will, but am not holding my breath) and because there are potential loopholes (though I have yet to hear a convincing one).

On some level, I don't care about the nitty-gritty details of this amendment. This isn't just about how the money is allocated or what workarounds exist. This has me so incredibly infuriated because it further segregates abortion as something different, off the menu of regular health care. It is a huge backward step in the battle to convey -- not just politically but to women in their everyday lives -- that reproductive health care is normal and necessary, and must be there if (or, more accurately, when) you need it.

This also sets apart women's rights from the Democratic/progressive/whatever agenda. As something expendable. But fundamental rights for women are not peripheral. They are core. And not just because of so-called progressive values. In a political sense, too: Seeing as how the Democratic Party relies on women voters to win elections, you would think they would have come around to this no-brainer by now.

It's pretty cramped underneath this bus, what with 50 percent of Americans down here.

--Ann Friedman

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