Abortion should be health care

November 20, 2009

Mais Jasser explains how the Stupak Amendment to the House health care bill makes it even harder for women to get the health care they require.

IN THE national health care plan that passed the House of Representatives earlier this month by a very narrow margin, 51 percent of the population was sold out.

Again, both male and female representatives voted for a health care system that specifically and purposefully excludes access to abortion. Once again, the Religious Right has successfully attacked women's equality.

Since the late 1970s, women's reproductive clinics have become more and more isolated from other health care services, and therefore more vulnerable to being targeted by the campaigns of right-wingers, bigots and religious zealots.

The U.S. remains the only industrialized country where abortion is legal, but where women and doctors are harassed and even subjected to terrorism at clinics. In countries such as Canada, France and Germany--which followed suit and legalized abortion after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision made it legal in the U.S.--abortion has become integrated into the health care system.

In these countries, women can check into any hospital or medical center to get an abortion. Therefore, women entering a hospital for abortion services can't be identified, isolated and targeted. The Stupak Amendment to the national health care bill will only serve to further isolate and stigmatize abortion, coming closer yet to rendering Roe v. Wade totally ineffective.

If fighting terrorism were truly a national priority, then doctors and women would be protected by providing reproductive services alongside every other medical procedure in every hospital. And if we want truly equal access to health care for women, we need to fight for total access to abortion services as part of a rational and publicly funded health care system.

Criminalization of abortion between the 1880s and 1973 didn't reduce the numbers of women who sought abortions. Before the Roe v. Wade decision, it's estimated that 1.2 million illegal abortions were performed every year. During that time, hospital emergency room staff treated thousands of women who either died or suffered the horrendous effects of botched abortions.

We may see a return to this situation with national health care legislation that includes an amendment barring coverage for abortion services not only from a government-run "public option" program, but also from any private insurer that wants to be included as a choice for uninsured people who receive federal funds to help them purchase coverage through an exchange.

And a woman who currently has an insurance plan through her employer that covers abortion may also lose that coverage, since it's expected that many employers will drop coverage and force their workers into the exchange, where the only plans to choose from don't provide abortion coverage.

Female House members like Nancy Pelosi have become active participants in a conspiracy to return women in this country to back-alley abortions. The Stupak Amendment won't just make it impossible for millions of currently uninsured women to obtain abortions, forcing them into buy into a plan through the government exchange, but lower-income women will also be forced to buy into a plan that denies them their constitutional right to equal protection. If they refuse to buy into the government's plan, they could have to pay financial penalties and face further financial ruin.

Neither the strategies of NARAL nor other mainstream women's rights organizations have been effective in stemming the tide of the systematic chipping away at the legitimate and constitutional right of women to make decisions about their own bodies.

This should be a wake-up call for a new movement that demands equality and puts an end to an underhanded plan that takes women several decades backward. Our constitutional rights are being used as a bargaining chip to advance male-dominated capitalist interests.

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