Whose health care victory?

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that, last night, the House passed a health-care reform bill. I got this lovely email from Barack Obama telling me what a victory this is:

This evening, at 11:15 p.m., the House of Representatives voted to pass their health insurance reform bill. Despite countless attempts over nearly a century, no chamber of Congress has ever before passed comprehensive health reform. This is history.
But you and millions of your fellow Organizing for America supporters didn’t just witness history tonight — you helped make it. … You stood up. You spoke up. And you were heard.

Actually, I wasn’t heard. Because I think I made pretty damn clear (as did Obama, in several speeches during the campaign) that reproductive health care is essential health care.
So what the FUCK is this Stupak amendment doing attached to the health-reform bill? You know, that amendment that takes away women’s access to health care? It reads:

The amendment will prohibit federal funds for abortion services in the public option. It also prohibits individuals who receive affordability credits from purchasing a plan that provides elective abortions. However, it allows individuals, both who receive affordability credits and who do not, to separately purchase with their own funds plans that cover elective abortions. It also clarifies that private plans may still offer elective abortions.

THIS IS FUCKED. [Update: A few more details at LGM.] NARAL for has more, as does Amanda.
As Sarah Jaffe put it, “Bart Stupak thinks he knows what I can do with my body. And Congress is voting to let him make that choice.” A full 64 Democrats voted to take away your right to medical care. Shocker of shockers, they’re all the vast majority are dudes. A couple of them are even men who have claimed to be pro-choice.
Writes Pilgrim Soul,

Charmingly I expect that in the next few days all your liberal dude friends will be trying to explain to you that this is really no big deal, look, they had to get the Republicans/”Democrats” onboard SOMEHOW, this is just a battle but we won the war, etc etc.

Actually, they’ll be explaining that it’s not a big deal because the Stupak amendment can be stripped out by the conference committee (which I very much hope it will, but am not holding my breath) and because there are potential loopholes (though I have yet to hear a convincing one).
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.
It’s pretty fucking cramped underneath this bus, what with 50% of Americans down here.
And now, lest we get too depressed, a few next steps:

Other suggestions?
UPDATE: Go read Shark-Fu.
UPDATE II: The Washington Post reports,

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.”

Join the Conversation

  • davenj

    Not to my knowledge, but this whittles away coverage sold on the exchange, so the newly insured won’t be getting abortion coverage in this new program, and it changes the industry enough to run the risk that fewer women will have access to abortion because their insurance providers will drop that part of their coverage.

  • Kathleen6674

    Yep…it’s a victory for me, too. I currently have national health insurance because I’m on federal disability (SSDI). I’m terrified of getting a job, not because I don’t want to work – I desperately do – but because if I get a job, I’ll be thrown off Medicare. If I end up becoming too sick to work again, I’ll have to reapply for disability, which took me 8 months, then I had to wait two full years for my Medicare to even kick in.
    I simply cannot afford to be without health insurance for two whole years again. I declared bankruptcy because of medical bills. If the plan outlined in this bill passes, I won’t have that hanging over my head ever again. Because of my combined disabilities, there is literally no private health insurance plan that will take me as a customer. I have pre-existing conditions to beat the band. This bill is a victory. It is not entirely the victory I wanted, but it is undeniably a victory.
    A deeply flawed victory, given that I’m still up shit’s creek if I need an abortion, but prior to this, I was up shit’s creek if I needed ANY medical procedure. If I have to choose between no insurance and flawed insurance, I’ll pick flawed.
    That is what is on the table here. It is not a battle between flawed insurance and perfect insurance taking place right now, it is a battle between flawed insurance and non-existent insurance. The Stanek Amendment was proposed not so much to prevent abortions (although it quite obviously will to a terrible degree if it is signed into law) as it was to prevent any kind of health care bill from passing at all. It would be nice if I could wait until a perfect bill passed, but I can’t, and neither can millions of people like me. It’s a victory.
    Which is not to say there aren’t millions of women who need abortion coverage; there are, unquestionably. These are also the same women who are unlikely to have any coverage at all. If we can get them basic coverage, we are helping them. Not to the degree we ideally could, but if they are prevented from paying for abortions due to the high cost of their other medical procedures, they will likely have more money left for an abortion should they need one. It’s not perfect by any means, but it is incorrect to say this bill isn’t any kind of victory at all.
    Get the big health bill signed into law while we still can, then keep fighting the fight for abortion rights like we’ve never fought before.

  • aleks

    I can’t speak for poor women, of course, but I don’t know if Feministing is qualified to assume on their behalf that they’d rather continue to lack any insurance than be granted insurance that doesn’t cover abortion.

  • Gretchen

    You’re right that the House is generally more liberal than the Senate, but once the two chambers pass a bill, they have to reconcile any changes between the two in conference. For example, if the Senate adds something during their deliberations, then members from both houses will meet to negotiate and make the two versions identical before it goes to the President. It is during this process that the Stupak amendment could likely get killed, if not before that.

  • Kathleen6674

    Stupak Amendment, not Stanek…I ended up putting the last name of an old classmate in there by mistake!
    Also, this was supposed to go under alek’s post.

  • aleks

    “You’re right that the House is generally more liberal than the Senate, but once the two chambers pass a bill, they have to reconcile any changes between the two in conference. For example, if the Senate adds something during their deliberations, then members from both houses will meet to negotiate and make the two versions identical before it [has to be passed by each house again before it] goes to the President. It is during this process that the Stupak amendment could likely get killed, if not before that.”

  • davenj

    I’m in complete agreement, I just think we ought to look at this thing as a whole. In some ways it may be an achievement, but in other ways it could be the beginning of a move that reduces access to abortion on a rather wide scale.
    I’m sure plenty of people, and women, could not care less about this, and are fine with their insurance not covering abortion, but that doesn’t change the ramifications of altering the insurance industry radically in a way that could be conducive toward reducing abortion coverage.
    This ought not be a “take it or leave it” situation. And I don’t recall anyone here saying “torpedo the bill”. But that’s no reason not to recognize flaws in it. Particularly one as serious as this.

  • Kathleen6674

    Come back when YOU spend the last $200 in your bank account on a doctor’s visit for strep throat and have to beg the pharmacist to give you the antibiotics on credit.
    Come back when YOU go bankrupt at age 27 due to medical bills to the tune of $29,000.
    Come back when the prescription medications YOU take cost $13,000 a year.
    Come back when YOU actually read what’s currently covered by Medicare and notice that pelvic exams, Pap smears, and birth control are already covered by the government and not likely to go anywhere in a new bill. Abortion I’ll grant YOU, but overstating the case isn’t helping your argument.
    Come back when YOU read that it costs over $1,000 a day for a hospital stay under Medicare and realize that the new bill will cut that cost to the patient immensely.
    Come back when YOU get your head out of your privileged ass.

  • stopstupak

    Contact your elected Representatives, even if they voted “no.” Let them know how you feel. Apathy is our worst enemy.

  • Gretchen

    Ah, you’re right, I missed a step. Doesn’t really change my point though. =)

  • mugsandpugs

    Make a donation to Planned Parenthood in Bart Stupak’s name.
    Please have Planned Parenthood send a thank you card to Bart Stupak:
    Congressman Bart Stupak
    2268 Rayburn House Office Building
    Washington, DC 20515

  • aleks

    Tinfoil is revoking your womanhood for having medical issues other than abortion. Please turn in your ovaries at the check-in desk on your way out.

  • Mishi

    yes, yes it does.

  • OklahomaExile

    That is true – the public option was a “take it or leave it” situation. The alternative was, essentially, no health care for the uninsured. That wasn’t the legalese, but that was the bottom line. The public option was what this whole thing was about, from the start. So of course we couldn’t vote for a package that didn’t include it.
    But as much as I think abortion coverage SHOULD have been in there, it was not the central issue of THIS particular political fight. Allowing conservatives to force us into making the choice between two things that are important sucks, no two ways about it. But the surest way to undercut our political agenda is to allow ourselves to see EVERY fight through the lens of just a few issues.
    We’re feminists, but we’re also progressives, and at times, there’s going to be tension in our goals. Can’t be helped, especially when the other side knows they can use that tension to split our coalition. The only palliative is to be sure that we keep our eye on the particular ball we’re swinging for at that moment, and make sure we get the rest of our interests back in the game as soon as possible.
    All that said, I HATE the Stupak Amendment, and as soon as healthcare is on line, I believe repealing it should be priority #1.

  • ticker

    One third of American women will have an abortion in their lifetime. This will not be covered. Diabetes, which affects about 7% of the population, will be covered.
    That’s not a healthcare system I can feel good about.

  • ticker

    For many if not most women you need to add in transportation costs and lost hours at work–having to travel for an abortion is the norm if you don’t live in a major city. This is a further barrier for low-income women.

  • aleks

    It does, though, if the Stupak Amendment is necessary for it to pass the House, or the more conservative Senate.

  • Kathleen6674

    Diabetes requires ongoing, lifelong care that adds up to way than the cost of an abortion.

  • ScottRock

    You said:
    “abortions that are needed to preserve health and life should be covered.”
    Unfortunately, the Stupak amendment doesn’t have an emergency clause. I remain confused as to why you’ve cast your lot with the patriarchy, and why you’ve chosen to put your tax money ahead of the health and welfare of millions of women.
    Aren’t there clauses in the health care bill that already prohibit public spending on “elective procedures?” If so, and medical professionals agree on what constitutes an “elective procedure,” then why does this amendment single out abortions, when–by your logic–they should already be considered elective? If such clauses do not exist, then why does the only elective procedure amendment single out abortion, and abortion only? How in the world do you not see this amendment for what it really is: a blatantly political step towards the total dismemberment of reproductive rights in the US?
    As a last note: you have absolutely no right to make the judgment about whether a procedure significantly impacts the “health and life” of an individual. Only a medical professional and the person in question can make that decision. That you would have the hubris to take others’ health decisions into your own hand is sickening.

  • RKMK

    Just putting it out there (for women who care enough that there were 64 Democrats willing to forego the rights of half the population, or for women who are going to wait and see if the amendment will be taken out in Committee, or for women who are going to wait and see whether Obama will take a stand on it).
    Whatever your personal tipping point: De-register from the Democratic Party. Become an Independent. A Democratic Party that has lost the women’s vote will be a Democratic party bending over backwards to win it back. If they’re going to chase Independents, make sure you’re the Independent. There is no point aligning yourself with either party at this juncture, because they clearly Do Not Care. Make them care. If 50-60% of the party de-registers and become a large block of free voting agents? Suddenly, both parties might just start perking up and looking for ways to win that gigantic block over to their side.
    I’m just saying – being loyal to Democrats is clearly doing jack shit for women. Something’s gotta give.

  • snarking.wordpress.com

    My reaction was to inform the Obama Administration via email that I would love to donate my money to help the HCR bill, just as soon as the administration was willing to stand against the Stupak amendment and say that it is a compromise they are unwilling to make in order to pass this bill, and one they will fight to have removed before Obama signs it into law (if it indeed passes through the Senate).
    I mean, fuck, this bill is already enough of a compromise without this compromise on women’s health and women’s rights. It’s not the single-payer universal healthcare I and many others truly want, one most Americans would want if they weren’t fed a 24/7 diet of “This Is Socialized Medicine/Government Takeover” bullshit from the MSM. But if this bill is going to include anything even resembling the Stupak amendment, I’m almost inclined to say I’d rather pass altogether until Congress can cover ALL Americans for ALL their healthcare needs.
    I am frankly sick and tired of having the Democratic pander to women’s rights until it comes time to vote on such an historic amendment. Thankfully, my representative, Rick Larsen, voted no on that piece of shit amendment, but I plan to send him a letter indicating I need his stance against an HCR bill with that amendment to be a lot stronger than that nay vote if he wishes to receive my continued support.

  • Comrade Kevin

    My advice: stop separating ourselves into niche identity groups, leave post-modernism behind forever, embrace a new sense of common purpose that draws people together, value unity over well-intentioned division, formulate a singular purpose and focus that is easily understandable to all, set up an excellent system of networking, meet frequently, draft qualified candidates from within our ranks, and encourage others to seriously entertain taking jobs in politics if not running for elective office themselves.
    Speaking frankly here, soon we’ll all be able to run for elective office, so why not start small, get experience, build some traction, then work up to greater and greater heights? How wonderful it would be to someday see a Feministing member as a Senator or Congressperson.

  • aleks

    Absolutely. There is not a dime’s worth of difference between a party that doesn’t sufficiently prioritize abortion and a party that wants a constitutional amendment to criminalize it.

  • dondo.myopenid.com

    It sickens me that this country is so unduly influenced by regressive, sexually repressed ignoramuses that it’s possible for the Stupak amendment to be proposed, let alone passed. I remain disgusted with the gutless representation we have (of both parties) who can’t get something like this right even with broad, significant popular support.
    That said, I have to echo what “OklahomaExile” said above: in the long term getting not-for-profit national health insurance is only a good thing for the country, including for women. Once everyone has health coverage, broadening it to include reproductive services is a winnable fight. I know that’s no comfort to the thousands and thousands of women — and their unwanted children, of both genders — in the meantime, but I have to balance that against the thousands and thousands of people who live healthier lives, or are allowed to live at all. Given the real world we live in, this is already more than I dared hope for.
    Yes, we should all fight hard to get it stripped out of the Senate version — as long as we get a Senate version passed into law. If I have to choose between a law with this feculant tumor on it and no bill at all, I’m afraid I have to plug my nose, support this one, and then get to work excising the boil.
    The most glaring lesson the Bush administration taught me is that when you select the lesser of two evils, you get less evil. The Stupak amendment is a naked attempt to split women’s support away from the healthcare bill, in an attempt to give cover to the cowards in Congress to not vote for it. I think punishing progressive representatives who vote for the lesser of two evils is a strategic error in this case.
    …and I just donated another $100 to Planned Parenthood.

  • Tracey T

    Actually, the public option wasn’t critical, not even for the President. You say that it was the bottom line but there was a point in which the politicians and “progressive” leadership was willing to throw it out. People who opposed this move where labeled as being roadblocks to change, “too radical”, too whiny, and needing to show party solidarity and support the President. They were accused of “not seeing the big picture” and not being in touch with those who needed any kind of health care reform. You may say it was the bottom line, but most people in a position to vote on it, and even the person in a position to sign it, are in disagreement with that statement. It was kept in b/c people backed it when politicians and party leaders said it had to go, even if it meant sinking the bill.
    I am not suggesting the bill should have been completely left behind if not without this amendment, but that there at least should have been as strong a push to preclude this as there was to keep the public option. The argument against not fighting this amendment is the exact same one, almost verbatim even, that was used against the public option. I am not unhappy the bill passed, but think people who call themselves progressives need to rethink what they are willing to fight for. There were a hell of a lot of “progressives” clamoring that what we needed was health care reform of any kind and that a public option could be added later when people where able to accept it.
    The bill passed, that is good. I would not have had this amendment be an all or nothing issue, but I think the lack of willingness to fight against it is unnerving and further sets a precedent. Couple this with Pres. Obama’s statements made earlier about how historically, the gov’t has not funded abortion, and I think it becomes clear that access to abortion is not considered important or necessary. I do not expect Dems to be a brick wall, but a little backbone would be nice as well as a little honesty.

  • RKMK

    Y’hear dat, ladies? 52% of the population is a “niche” market.

  • turninnburnin3

    But in my area, clinics do not let you pay in payments. You must pay in full and for those who cannot afford it they are forced to go through a pregnancy.

  • Anita

    Along those same lines, does it cover Birth Control?
    I highly doubt it, given where this discussion is going.

  • pull_rank

    Besides the huge percentage of women that will have an abortion in their lifetime (and right now, 85% of private insurers cover it — the amendment will actually TAKE THAT COVERAGE AWAY), 80% of women will become mothers at some point in their lives. Every pregnancy has risks associated with it to the mother and the possibility of genetic anomalies for the fetus. These issues rarely come up before at least 20 weeks, at which point the cost of an abortion is thousands of dollars and can rarely be covered out of pocket. It may not occur to you if you’ve never been there, but real women do rely on this coverage and in the name of so-called progress, they may not even be able to buy it with their own friggin’ money. The current version of this bill is shameful.

  • aleks

    Insurance covers breast augmentation?

  • aleks

    It’s weird that everyone from the OP on is calling out Obama on this. Obama may be a “dude,” but he doesn’t run the House. Is it too jarring to acknowledge that Speaker Nancy Pelosi allowed a vote on the Stupak Amendment and then pushed the bill through with the Stupak Amendment attached?

  • kisekileia

    I agree with this. This health care bill is so important that I think it needs to be signed into law first, and the Stanek amendment repealed later. Millions of lives will be saved or improved with this bill, and while the Stanek amendment is awful, it seems to CURRENTLY be the price of those lives. It’s a terrible tradeoff, but it’s one that can be changed later–once the health care bill is law.

  • Kathleen6674

    Judging from the vast majority of the comments here and the title of the original post, I’m going to say that Feministing seems very, very unqualified to speak for lower-income people. The answer to the question ‘Whose health care victory?’ is pretty fucking obvious to me, but it seems lost on both Ann, who wrote this post, and all but two or three of the commenters.
    Yes, abortion is extremely important, but can people take off the Privilege Blindfold for just two seconds and actually look at the difference between being able to afford all health care except abortion and not being able to afford any health care at all?

  • Kathleen6674

    Medicare and Medicaid already cover birth control, Pap smears, and pelvic exams. There is little chance the new bill will be any different in that respect.

  • theelephantschild

    have you actually ever had to try and contact anyone on that list? Its very hard to reach them, service is off and on, they cant take everyone. The need is always much greater than whats available. trust me, its very difficult.

  • Sidewriter

    I think you’re right about where we have to go from here. But I am absolutely infuriated that we’re stuck here because the feculant tumor shouldn’t even be on the bill. If half the Dems who voted yes on the amendment had had the ovaries to stand up for my bodily autonomy, the Stupak amendment would be dead, the public option would still be alive, and a powerful message that Dems won’t stand for that kind of bullshit would have been sent.

  • YellowMellow

    This may be a naive question and/or not how the process works, but why weren’t there any Dems who were willing to say they wouldn’t vote for health care reform if the Stupak amendment passed? Do we have no congressperson who feels strongly enough about reproductive rights to make a bold stand against this kind of offense? Not that I necessarily would want the entire health care reform bill held up over this, but I wish there were a leader who felt strongly enough about women’s health care to do something radical about it.
    I guess I’m wondering if there was any way for the reform bill to pass without the Stupak amendment – i.e. was the one republican vote necessary?

  • Erika

    Yes, it is a little bit different. Now, women are forbidden from purchasing a health insurance plan that covers abortion if they receive a federal subsidy. This means that the insurance that they are paying for (yes, they would be receiving federal funding to help, but they are still paying) cannot include abortion coverage. It essentially allows the potential for “good” insurance to include abortion coverage, and thus be available exclusively to wealthy women.

  • Erika

    Thank you! This is indeed an imperfect first step, but it *does* help people. I obviously disagree with the Stupak amendment, but I’m happy that this passed at all. I’ll be kicked off of my parents’ insurance in April, and the medications and treatments I’m on just for chronic migraines are too expensive for me without decent insurance. I’m terrified I won’t be able to afford anything since I don’t anticipate getting a super stellar job with benefits after I graduate with a B.A. in English, ha. I’m going to count this as progress, finally.

  • arielmorgan

    I fail to see how any amount of anger and fury– justified though it may be (seem?)– and discussing how “ifs” “should ofs” and “could ofs” might have changed the outcome.
    Here is the situation boys, girls and others: the bill passed, with the amendment attached. For whatever reason, some people feel/felt that the bill wouldn’t go through if this (and other compromises) weren’t made. That’s the truth of it. Argue all you like over it, it will remain the truth.
    Justice and righteousness, solutions, if those are the things that you fight for, are never found in looking backwards and one’s own rear-end in search of where the most guilty member(s) of a group movement is.
    Soldier on, fellow feminists and social activists, soldier on. The only direction is up. (The enemy’s gate is down? *tongue-in-cheek*)

  • liberallatte

    Angry emails and phone calls are good, but hardly a threat for these Anti-Choice Democrats or those in the Conference Committee. We need a real, clever strategy to defeat it before the final bill reaches the floor. In my view, the only effective way to get it stripped in the Conference Committee is for enough Pro-Choice Democrats to publicly declare that they will vote AGAINST the final bill unless Stupak is removed. Only if the leadership believes that without Pro-Choice votes the final bill would not pass, they would listen to them; otherwise they just take Pro-Choice votes for granted. Washington is just pure power game with numbers. How was Stupak able to threaten his way to get this amendment voted on? By threatening that they would vote against the bill without this amendment. Our side needs to the same, if we are to be taken seriously.
    Once it is entrenched, I don’t see a chance of it being repealed in a foreseeable future. How long ago was it that Hyde Amendment actually had a chance of getting repealed?
    Also, with due respect to NARAL and Planned Parenthood, we need to seriously consider Jane Hamsher’s points on the effectiveness of the pro-choice movement;

  • aleks

    YOU can’t get routine pelvice exams paid for, or when YOU can’t get birth control pills (but men still get ED medications!) and tell me how much better off you are.
    Was it actually reported somewhere credible that women would lose funding for pelvic exams and birth control because of healthcare reform, or . . .?

  • aleks

    I saw the same thing in the endless series of “Being A Woman Is Not A Pre-existing Condition!” articles complaining that specifically female health expenses weren’t being privileged over treatment for things like diabetes or arthritis or AIDS or disabilities, as if those never affected women or anyone worth caring about.

  • Tortured Soul

    I agree that this is a very wrong and that the bill should never have been passed but there is no need to accuse it the democrats of voting this way because they’re male. Also it is not only inappropriate it just baffles me that people must use these phrases like this for doing something thats right no one needs to “have the ovaries” or “have the balls” both are sexist remarks and may I remind you one of the most vocal advocates for”pro-life”/ anti abortion was a woman only showing there is little to no gender barrier here and that anyone can either see this bill as something that doesn’t matter to them and could give a crap if it gets passed (which is an ignorant approach if anything) or do the right thing and realize that both women and men are part of the community. Meaning that both deserve equal chance for health care and that if that means that some religious freaks think women don’t have the choice to abort a pregnancy then thats their problem not the countries. and you should care more about someone’s beliefs and thoughts than their gender.

  • Tortured Soul

    Finally someone who is forward thinking its nice to see someone who wants to do something about this instead of placing blame.

  • aleks

    The Republican vote was not necessary. The conservative Democratic votes were.

  • aleks

    Everyone do yourselves a big favor and don’t let any GOP/Teabaggers share their views of Rep. Ahn Cao with you. Twenty-First Century and they don’t know they’re supposed to hide their racism.

  • 2552

    CBO says it will reduce the deficit over 10 years by at least $12 billion.

  • tinfoil hattie

    This anti-woman bill will come out of the Senate with misogyny intact. So millions of people will get health insurance at the expense of women’s health.
    Oh, well. Small trade-off, I guess.

  • 2552

    Only 4 replies here mention Obama out of 94 replies as of now. Pelosi and most other Democrats voted against the amendment. Unfortunately, the bill wouldn’t have passed without it. Everyone here is calling out the 64 Democrats who voted for the Stupak Amendment and wouldn’t vote for a bill without it, effectively holding the bill hostage. The amendment explicitly restricts reproductive health care. Why shouldn’t we be pissed about that? Aren’t you?
    *sigh* Maybe after 2010 there will be enough pro-choice Democrats to remove the amendment then. Doesn’t look like it can be removed in committee and still pass the House.