Rep. Jan Schakowsky on the state of reproductive rights

When I interviewed Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) for the Feministing Five I also took the opportunity to ask her about the state of reproductive rights. This was just days after the abortion ban in high risk pools had been announced, the latest in a series of disappoints from the White House in regards to reproductive rights.

Transcript after the jump!


MP: Young women and feminists are pretty upset about how abortion and contraception have been dealt with in the recent health care reform legislation. What do you think about this, where can we place the blame and what can be done to rectify the situation?

JS: Well for one thing I think we need to have an offensive agenda. We need to outline things, whether it’s getting rid of Hyde altogether or doing some of the things that the anti-choice community has done and chip away, maybe we want to think about more things that are exempt from Hyde that we want to add.

So we need to have a pro-active agenda. The leaders of the pro-choice caucus, which I’m one, did meet with the representatives at the White House about our more than disappointment over the high-risk pools. Well we were never consulted. You know I think there was a knee-jerk reaction to some demonstration or something in PA so there was some thought that this is a program that is short-lived and will eventually go away.

We at the pro-choice caucus have tried to make sure, even in legalistic ways, that we don’t codify or expand Hyde, you know that for right now, draw a firewall around it. We were very upset about that decision for which we weren’t even consulted, we were blindsided really. So you know, going forward, we need to make sure the implementation of the Nelson language happens in a way that is least restrictive as possible. And there are ways to do it. And believe me, I go way back with Barack Obama. I served in the state legislature with him I know that he is pro-choice but this decision was very hurtful to us.

Think about the real-life consequences of this. These are women with serious medical conditions going into these high risk pools. Pregnancy for them can be life and death. So it was a bad decision and the process really was bad, the consequences were bad and we can’t let this happen. We want to work with all of our feminists, young feminists, all pro-choice women and pro-choice men. How are we going to take advantage of the fact that we do have a pro-choice president now and how are we going to increase our numbers in the House and to move the agenda forward? We’re going to need a lot of help. We’ve got to make this a battle front.

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  • Elizabeth

    Ignoring the high risk category of women is a clear lack of good judgment that I do not comprehend. There are pro-life people that give their lives because they refuse the abortion even knowing the medical risks involved in having a child.

    I will admit that I am not knowledgeable about the bill. I tried not to pay too much attention to it because I felt it was a push to placate people who were angry over the economy. But I must ask, does it provide women who know they are medically high risk the opportunity to for tubal ligations as a means to protect their own lives?

    Admittedly, I am one of those women that knew due to my medical issues it would never be safe for me to become pregnant. Medication makes birth control ineffective and I feared the risk of what pregnancy would do to my body. I opted for the ligation five years ago at 25.

    I would hope that this option would be made available in the public health care bill. Of course, they do not want to include abortion although abortion can save lives. If not for abortion, I would not still have my mommy.