Betraying women again

At this writing, it appears that the House will approve the health care bill (UPDATE: it passed) that has been at the putative center of controversy around Obama’s presidency. I use the qualifier, putative, because as it appeared to me before, and as others have suspected, at least some tea partiers have confirmed that racism and gay-baiting are at the core of their protests.

But if racism is held in abeyance on this occasion, Obama has once again betrayed women. His comments about late term abortion were the final straw that convinced me that I couldn’t vote for him in 2008. And he has made a deal with Bart Stupak today to issue an executive order which “provides additional safeguards to ensure that the status quo [the Hyde amendment] is upheld and enforced, and that the health care legislation’s restrictions against the public funding of abortions cannot be circumvented.” Bart Stupak has something of an obsession about controlling women’s bodies.

That means that the barely better Nelson language in the Senate bill stands. As Vania Laveille of the ACLU put it,

The Nelson language is yet another attempt to impede a woman’s right to make private health care decisions. It will further stigmatize abortion and create a needless barricade for women to access comprehensive health care. Women will be required, every month, to make unnecessary dual health care payments to ensure they have the coverage they need. The Nelson language will, in effect, create a redundant and separate health care system for women.

Laveille points to the fact that only women will need to purchase this coverage. And to do so–assuming she has the foresight–is tantamount to an admission both to self and to health insurance company that the woman, never the man, is engaging in unprotected sex or is relying on birth control methods which may fail. As Martin Donohoe points out,

Most patients pay out of pocket [for abortions]. Only 26% of abortions are billed directly to public or private insurance. Most insured patients are reluctant to file claims because of concerns about confidentiality. Some health plans cover sterilization but not abortion, leaving poor women in the unenviable position of having to choose sterilization if they lack the resources for adequate contraception. . . .

The Nelson amendment further stigmatizes an already stigmatized procedure that is already hard to get in many areas:

Over one third of US women live in the 87% of counties in the United States, including 30% of metropolitan areas, that have no abortion provider. The situation is worst in rural areas. Only 1800 physicians provided abortion services in 2000, down 11% from 2400 in 1996. Only 12% of obstetrics and gynecology residency programs required abortion training in the mid-1990s, down from 25% in 1985. More recently, Espey and colleagues conducted a survey on abortion education throughout the 4 years of medical school. The results show that abortion education remains limited in US medical schools.

If, as opponents claim, women who have abortions are more likely to suffer depression, these facts can only serve to increase the trauma. Thank you, Obama, for making it even worse.

(UPDATE: Chris Hedges comments on other aspects of the package; Marcy Wheeler’s explains how health insurance costs will affect families under the plan.)

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