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Right Wing War on Reproductive Health Care for Women

Flickr Photo by CongressmanMikePence


Those against abortion or a woman’s right to choose are mobilizing against the public option that may or may not be in the health care bill Obama eventually signs at the end of this year.


Although the bill makes no mention of abortion, anti-abortionists are politicizing the reform bill and suggesting that the public option will mandate coverage for abortions.


Those against a woman’s right to an abortion also seem to be pursuing an ultimate goal of preventing private health insurance plans from covering abortions.



The Family Research Council (FRC)recently put out the above ad. It combines every right wing voter’s worst fears about being subjected to a Canadian-style government-run health care system with every right wing voter’s prejudice toward a woman’s right to an abortion.


In the tradition of the classic Harry and Louise commercials, two people (whom I will call “Gary and Bernice” who are both possibly members of the Pro-Life Action League and who could have probably been sighted at the gates of Notre Dame when Obama delivered the university’s commencement) talk about how government is willing to pay for abortions but not a husband’s surgery (kind of chauvinistic, if you ask me).


President of the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, suggests that “plans currently under consideration in the Democratic Congress” could “force taxpayers to pay for abortions for the first time in more than three decades.”

He argues, “S
eventy-one percent of Americans do not want to pay for abortion, as a November 2008 Zogby poll showed, and they do not want their employers to provide health care that pays for abortion. H.R. 3200 [the health care reform bill] is a massive bill that mandates health benefits, grants enormous authority to the HHS secretary and creates a public health insurance option. In its current form, H.R. 3200 would fund and mandate abortion coverage, which would make every American taxpayer complicit in the killing of hundreds of thousands of unborn children each year."  [emphasis added]


NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan says of Perkins and the FRC, “"The bills moving through Congress now do not reference abortion, so it’s obvious that Perkins is injecting this issue unnecessarily into the health reform debate in hopes that it will bring down the whole endeavor. That’s outrageous .... What [Perkins] and his allies are demanding is a new nationwide abortion ban in the private health insurance market." 


NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood, and the National Organization for Women (NOW) have understandably been pushed into a corner and forced to react to right wing attacks on reproductive health care in America.


NOW has begun a campaign aimed at defending reproductive health care which threatened by Democrats and Republicans. On the organization’s action page for the campaign, it details how there have been some victories for abortion rights recently as well as some defeats.

The good news:

In mid-July, fifteen anti-abortion rights amendments offered by Republicans were narrowly defeated in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee as the committee marked-up health care overhaul legislation. One, offered by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), would have prohibited abortion coverage in a health care exchange for participants who receive government subsidized coverage. Another, offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), would have specified that federal health reform legislation could not override state laws on parental notification when minors seek abortion services. A second Coburn amendment was rejected that would have advanced a broad version of so-called "conscience" exemptions for health care providers with moral or religious objections to reproductive health care.

On the House side, the House Education and Labor Committee recently approved a major health reform bill (H.R. 3200) after rejecting two amendments brought by Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) that sought to prohibit health care plans -- including a public plan -- that participate in the proposed health insurance exchange from covering abortion services. The House Ways and Means Committee approved H.R. 3200 after spurning dozens of Republican amendments, including several attempts to exclude abortion coverage from the essential benefit package created in the bill.

The bad news:

The topic of abortion coverage in health care reform has become red hot in recent days as abortion rights opponents have pressed the Democratic leadership to accept restrictions against abortion services in House legislation. A campaign of disinformation has been mounted by these groups, claiming that policies the Obama administration are pursuing "will result in massive public subsidies for abortion and result in a massive increase in the number of abortions."

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), co-chair of the Pro-Life Caucus, has said that health care reform legislation should maintain restrictions on federal funding of abortion. Stupak was among a group of 19 conservative Democrats who sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in June threatening to vote against any reform legislation that does not specifically prohibit federal funding from being used for abortion services.

Mid-week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with several anti-abortion-rights Democrats to ease pressure and a group of centrist Democrats have proposed an amendment that would neither require nor prohibit insurers from covering abortion services, as long as federal funding is not used. The latest tactic on the part of anti-abortion forces is to claim that because private insurers may be participating in the health insurance exchanges that the reform plan would establish, they would be benefiting from federal funding and must halt abortion coverage.

Some observers believe that this heightened campaign against abortion rights has an ultimate goal of prohibiting private health insurance plans from covering abortion. A 2002 study found that 87 percent of employer-based health insurance policies covered 'medically necessary or appropriate abortions', while another study found that 46 percent of workers with health insurance had coverage for abortion. So, if abortion rights opponents win on prohibiting private insurance from including abortion coverage, millions of women will be affected .

Lines are being drawn and Americans who support "family values" especially those who are right-leaning are thinking about a future where government grants women permission to kill millions of children.


The Democrats and Obama have chosen convenience and political expedience when dealing with a woman’s right to an abortion. President Obama and Nancy Pelosi have both suggested that Americans should focus on what’s important--- health care reform.


In doing so, they are empowering right wing ideologues. Without a proper response, Democrats and the Obama Administration allow the discussion on health care to be dominated by bigoted and prejudiced ideas on women and reproduction.


Finally, whether abortion should be included in health care reform or not is not the discussion we should be having. That discussion gives the Republicans to much freedom to control the debate.


Americans should focus on the real question:


Should right wing reactionaries be allowed to politicize a health care procedure so they can stall and possibly kill health care reform and also put more restrictions on access to abortion in America? Should they be allowed to do this to women? 


Reproductive health care is essential to the health of a woman.


The right wing attacks warrant a conversation on reproductive health care in society, a conversation on why society should value access to reproductive health care procedures and not sneer at them instead.
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