Women and Health Care Reform

The House has passed both the Senate bill and “fixes” for reconciliation.  Both by more than the minimum number of votes.  Lindsay Beyerstein wrote today in the Nation

Last night, the House of Representatives passed comprehensive health care reform after more than a year of fierce debate. The sweeping legislation will extend coverage to 32 million Americans, curb the worst abuses of the private insurance industry, and attempt to contain spiraling health care costs.

The main bill passed the House by a vote 219 to 212, after which the House approved a package of changes to the Senate bill by a vote of 220 to 211. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama will sign the main bill into law. Then, the Senate will incorporate the House-approved changes through filibuster-proof budget reconciliation, perhaps as early as this week.

What role did women play in passage?  Beyerstein explains

As tea party protests raged outside, it seemed as if abortion might derail health reform. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) insisted that he had the votes to kill the bill. At the last minute, Stupak was placated with an executive order from the president reiterating that the health care reform would not fund elective abortions.

The executive order is a red herring. It won’t impose any further restrictions, it just restates the status quo. Mike Lillis posted a copy of the order at the Washington Independent. The president might as well have reiterated a ban on federal funds for vajazzling. Health care reform was never going to fund vajazzling or abortion, but if Stupak finds the repetition soothing, so be it.

The chair of the pro-choice caucus, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) acquiesced to the Stupak compromise, describing the overall bill as a “strong foundation,” according to John Tomasic of the Colorado Independent. Pro-choice groups will be angry, but realistically, the executive order was the best possible outcome. For a while, it looked like Democrats were going to have to make substantive concessions to Stupak. In the end, he flipped his vote for a presidential proclamation of the status quo.

In a last ditch effort to derail reform, the Republicans tried to reinsert Stupak’s strict anti-abortion language into the reconciliation package. The Republicans were trying to poison the reconciliation bill in order to threaten its chances in the Senate, explains Mike Lillis of the Washington Independent. The gambit failed. When Stupak rose to speak against the motion, he was shouted down by Republican representatives. One unidentified member called Stupak a “baby killer.”

Women who want to repeal the Hyde Amendment (and I’m one of them) are split.  Should health care reform have been the vehicle for repeal?  Anyone who thinks it is appropriate is mistaken. I’m with the pro-choice women in Congress who voted for reform.  I know that NOW and NARAL are upset that the President and Congress are “ignoring” women and “eroding” the right to choose.  I don’t see it that way.  As far as I’m concerned, I agree with Lindsay:  nothing has changed and if Bart needed cover to vote for the bill he got it.  We kept the status quo and Bart got to be called a “baby killer” and vote for the bill.  Millions of women will have access to health care and being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition.

Payback for Prochoicers

But I’m with Katha Pollitt.  Women need something

The way I see it, the Democratic Party and the Obama administration owe supporters of women’s rights a huge payback for cooperating on its signature issue.

Her list of suggestions includes full funding for Title X, passage of paycheck fairness, confront maternal mortality, pass CEDAW, and fully fund the Violence Against Women Act.  Not a bad list.  It is hard to pick which should come first, but I would fund the Violence Against Women Act and passing CEDAW.  Pollit says about CEDAW

Pass CEDAW. Jimmy Carter signed it back in 1980, but the United States is one of a handful of countries that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The others? Sudan, Somalia, Iran and a few Pacific islands. Despite the fact that Congress has burdened CEDAW with no fewer than eleven reservations, nearly all of which were placed there by Jesse Helms to please Concerned Women for America and other antifeminist and Christian groups, it still hasn’t come to a vote. So pass it, already–and Helms is dead, so dump the reservations. Don’t have the votes? Vote on it anyway. American women should know which senators think we should have fewer human rights than women in nearly every other democratic country in the world.

I don’t think repeal of the Hyde Amendment is in the cards anytime soon, but I do think we should get everything on Katha’s list.

Waiting for the House to vote

8:30 pm Sunday, March 21.  I’ve been watching C-Span and MSNBC and listening to the debate.  It is clear that the Democrats now have more than enough votes to pass the bill (Be grateful Stephen Lynch, maybe the fallout won’t be quite so bad.), but it is not clear that I will make it to the end.  A sad occassion for this political junkie!

Some observation.  First, although I don’t know why he needed confirmation what is clearly in the Senate Bill, Representative Stupak has gotten President Obama to agree to issue an Executive Order affirming that the Hyde Amendment will apply to this Health Care Reform bill.  I think these two reactions as reported in the New York Times Prescription blog tell the story.

Travel notes from Senator Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee who ultimately balked at the Finance bill put forward in his chamber. Tonight, Senator Grassley tweets: “Flying bk DC Sun aftrnoon instead of Mon morn to get ahead of curve on Health/Stupak move “shocked”me I thought his stance wld hv kild bill.” In case you’re not accustomed to Mr. Grassley’s tweets or abbreviations (as well as some of ours in that 140-character limit), the Iowa senator is indicating that he’s shocked that Mr. Stupak would decide to vote for the health-care bill. Mr. Grassley anticipated that Mr. Stupak’s stance against abortion would’ve killed the bill.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, has also issued a statement on the president’s decision to sign an executive order (designed to explicitly prohibit using federal funds for abortions).

We regret that a pro-choice president of a pro-choice nation was forced to sign an Executive Order that further codifies the proposed anti-choice language in the health care reform bill, originally proposed by Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. What the president’s executive order did not do is include the complete and total ban on private health insurance coverage for abortion that Congressman Bart Stupak (D–MI) had insisted upon. So while we regret that this proposed Executive Order has given the imprimatur of the president to Senator Nelson’s language, we are grateful that it does not include the Stupak abortion ban.“

So whatever Representative Stupak’s motivations, it has all worked out.  Even though I ultimately agree with Nita Lowey.

Representative Nita Lowey, Democrat of New York, issued this statement a little while ago, reflecting the rather torn views some abortion-rights lawmakers had toward their opponents on this issue. Ms. Lowey’s statement:

“As a lifelong advocate for freedom of choice and affordable health care for all Americans, I find it outrageous that health insurance reform was held hostage in an effort to restrict women’s reproductive rights.

“The underlying health insurance reform bill contains objectionable language requiring insured women to write a check for general health insurance and a separate check for “abortion rider,” going far beyond current and continued policy preventing federal funding for abortion services.

“Although the final bill language is disappointing, the bottom line is millions more American women will receive basic care to stay healthy and prevent unintended pregnancies.”

Which brings me to the agument the Republicans are making over and over again:  This bill takes away your choice.  And unfortunately enough American’s seem to believe them to make the polls negative.  However, they do, like Senator Grassley, want to control women and make the decisions for us.  They don’t seem to mind insurance companies making health care decisions and rationing health care.  They don’t worry about going to the VA which is definately government run health care.  I’m sorry, I just don’t get it.

But, despite all the unhappiness about the abortion language from NOW and others who were much more negative than Planned Parenthood, the bill will pass with between 218 and 222 votes.