There has been a lot of talk from conservatives, claiming to be pro-life, that health care reform is a pro-choice victory. I’ve already outlined at length on this blog how this is false and that such persons were almost always against the bill regardless of what abortion language was used. (What a shame that they used pro-life considerations as a pawn in a battle over something else. But what else is new, right?)
But now that health care reform has passed, the disaffected pro-abortion rights crowd is making their displeasure that much more public. The whole article from ‘The Nation’ is worth reading, but here are some excerpts:
The months of debate and politicking around the healthcare overhaul provided a glimpse of the political strength of the prochoice movement that hasn’t been possible for years. The picture that emerged wasn’t pretty, as supporters of choice found that they don’t have the influence many assumed they did. Almost as soon as the reform process began, abortion rights became a bargaining chip. And after the frenzied horse-trading that finally produced a law, women across the country were left with less access to the procedure and a seriously weakened power base from which to protect and advocate for abortion rights. “It’s an enormous setback,” says Laurie Rubiner, vice president for public policy for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
In order to win the support of antichoice Democrats and save the bill, the Obama administration embraced the principle of Hyde, signing into law a bill that, in the words of Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, “goes far beyond current law by placing unreasonable burdens on those who want to either offer or purchase private health insurance coverage for abortion.” Desperate to keep healthcare reform alive, even prochoice groups found themselves defending the public-funding ban they so despised. “The most damaging thing about healthcare reform is that even our prochoice leadership has been, through no fault of their own, reinforcing Hyde,” says Laura MacCleery, director of government relations and communications for the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The compromise on abortion coverage that became law was only slightly less odious than the Stupak Amendment, which, to the horror of prochoicers, passed the House in a 240-194 vote on November 7, and would have prevented any health plan that receives federal money from paying for abortions. Politically, the Stupak vote laid bare the fact that there simply aren’t enough people willing to go to bat for abortion in Congress. The resounding vote count, coming late on a Saturday evening after hours of back-room scheming, was no surprise to Washington insiders on both sides of the issue. They already knew what would soon become plain to everyone else: a Democratic majority is not the same as a prochoice majority.
What a remarkable statement! And for those of you who think the language of the Senate bill is ‘pro-abortion’ (full disclosure: I plead guilty to having a misinformed opinion about it at first), please take a look at this reaction:
As the final vote neared, prochoice Senators Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray worked hard to keep Stupak-like language completely banning abortion coverage out of the bill, but they couldn’t even make a show of being able to stop Nelson. Around this time, Scott Brown had won the special election in Massachusetts, dispensing with the Democrats’ supermajority and putting the fate of healthcare reform in serious jeopardy. Though the major advocacy groups raised strong objections to the Nelson language–Planned Parenthood called it “offensive,” NARAL Pro-Choice America called it “outrageous” and “unacceptable”–neither advised voting against the bill.
Now, of course, the Nelson Amendment is law. And unless it is mitigated or eliminated through the regulatory process (a possibility that policy experts and lawyers are delving into), it will definitely create hassles for both women and insurers and will probably result in some health plans dropping abortion coverage altogether. Politically, it will likely create a new platform for antiabortion groups, which are expected to push state legislators to ban abortion coverage offered in their state-level exchanges (existing policies outside the exchanges would not be affected).
And, yes, the key now is where we all go from here. Some in the pro-abortion rights crowd hope that, “The real policy setbacks of healthcare reform could also serve as the wake-up call for women that prochoicers need.” But the pro-lifer who still thinks that the health care reform bill was a pro-choice victory, and that its passage is somehow evidence that they don’t need ‘fake’ or ‘insincere’ Democrat pro-lifers like Bart Stupak, needs a wake up call of their own. This country has gotten more liberal even as it has gotten more pro-life. The big tent approach to the pro-life movement is working. Let’s continue to press forward together.