Vitter symbolically restricts native women’s abortion access

This morning the Senate passed the Vitter Amendment — yup, that David Vitter — banning the use of federal Indian Health Service (IHS) funds for abortions. Except that the Hyde Amendment — another piece of “pro-family” legislation named for a noted philanderer — already restricts the rights of low-income women by denying Medicaid and IHS coverage for abortion.
So what’s Vitter doing? He claims his amendment closes a loophole in the Hyde Amendment that may be exploited by a pro-choice president. But really, this is bullshit. All his amendment does reiterate our existing federal policy, and muck things up for a future Democratic congress or president that may repeal the Hyde Amendment. Explains Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards:

“Sen. Vitter’s amendment is simply a political tactic that will do nothing to improve health care for Native Americans, nor reduce the number of unintended pregnancies,� said PPFA President Cecile Richards. “If Sen. Vitter is serious about preventing unintended pregnancies, he would support prevention legislation that invests in family planning programs. Unfortunately, Sen. Vitter’s amendment puts politics over the health and welfare of Native Americans.�

Exactly. Native women face disproportionately high rates of rape and sexual assault, and a very high teen birth rate. Seems like an awesome idea to cut this population off from federal reproductive health funding, huh?! Planned Parenthood continues,

In addition, Sen. Vitter’s amendment opens the door to potential unintended consequences. Restrictions on federal funding for abortion-related services should be consistent across federal programs and subject to the same language. As an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, IHS should be treated in the same manner as other HHS programs, such as Medicaid, which are all subject to the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment. Senator Vitter’s amendment poses potential confusion and duplication of effort if abortion restriction language is amended or changed.
In short, Senator Vitter’s amendment is a political ploy.

Yup. This is a way for Vitter and other anti-choice members of Congress — including amendment cosponsor John McCain — to pander to their base. Which is why it’s so appalling that Vitter has offered this as an amendment to the “Indian Health Care Improvement Act.” As if he gives a damn about native women’s health.

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