Sold out in the name of healthcare reform

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the Healthcare Reform bill only after Democrats caved on abortion, allowing the Stupak Amendment to be added in order to move the bill along.  The Stupak Amendment prohibits any public option to offer abortion coverage, and also prevents private insurers from covering abortion by limiting federal affordability credits to plans that do not cover abortion.  For those of us who desire a truly comprehensive healthcare reform act that values women's healthcare needs, this "victory" was hard to swallow.

Ann's post over at Feministing was cathartic to read, as she (colorfully) expresses the anger that I and many other Choice activists are feeling.  She writes:

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.

She is not the only one upset. Charlotte Taft at RH Reality Check calls the Stupak Amendment an "assault on women."  RH Reality Check also gives you a place to direct your anger -- the list of Democrats who voted for the amendment

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism stated: "This amendment is an attack on the rights enshrined in Roe vs. Wade and a threat to the health of millions of American women, and we urge both houses to strip it from a final bill." I am still waiting to read statements from other leaders (and women) in the Jewish community.

After indulging in my anger for a few hours, I, like Ann from Feministing, calmed down enough to acknowledge the good outcomes of this bill. The House health reform bill expands Medicaid coverage, funds comprehensive sex-ed programs, extends Medicaid to cover HIV treatments (not just AIDS treatments), and makes great strides for including and considering the needs of the LGBT community. 

The bill prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, it ends the practice of taxing employer-provided domestic partner health benefits, and acknowledges that LGBT communities "experience significant gaps in disease, health outcomes, or access to health care." Finally, the bill cracks down on private insurance companies, banning lifetime limits, disparity in premiums based on health status or sex, and denial of coverage based on preexisting conditions.

These are all incredible strides. They really, really are.  This is what I keep reminding myself as I raise my fist half-heartedly into the air. 

The good news is that there is still hope for the Stupak Amendment to be stripped from the bill.  The Washington Post writes:

But abortion-rights supporters are vowing to strip the amendment out, as the focus turns to the Senate and the conference committee that would resolve differences between the two bills.

Although House liberals voted for the bill with the amendment to keep the process moving forward, Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.) said she has collected more than 40 signatures from House Democrats vowing to oppose any final bill that includes the amendment -- enough to block passage.

"There's going to be a firestorm here," DeGette said. "Women are going to realize that a Democratic-controlled House has passed legislation that would prohibit women paying for abortions with their own funds ... We're not going to let this into law."

If there was ever a time for action, it is now.  Today I am shelving my anger and choosing to act.  I urge you to join me in writing letters, sending emails, making phone calls, writing blog posts, and making a big, stinking fuss.  A healthcare bill that restricts abortion coverage and affordability is not reform.  It is compromise.


Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz vows to kill the Stupak Amendment.  This is exactly what we should expect from a high-profile, Pro-Choice, Jewish woman in congress.  Yay!

NCJW President Nancy Ratzan condemns the House's vote against abortion rights!

The New York Times takes a stand, urging the Senate to preserve a woman’s right to abortion services.

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Th women who need the Public Health Care Option or a enroll in a government subsidized program are the very ones who would not be able to pay for an abortion on there own. They are also the women that cannot afford contraception, also not covered by insurance. Is this equality?

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How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "Sold out in the name of healthcare reform." 9 November 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 20, 2024) <>.