Abortion and the Health Care Bill


Many advocates of a woman’s legal right to abortion under the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision were enthusiastic supporters of the Democratic health-care reform bill. But they were appalled at the deal President Obama made with 13 representatives in exchange for an Executive Order that weakens the rights of women to legal abortions.

With little fanfare, glaring lights, or TV cameras, no East Room speeches, no photo-ops, or handshakes, President Obama did not commemorate this Executive Order with 20 signing pens. According to NOW: "The bill contains a sweeping anti-abortion provision. Contrary to the talking points circulated by congressional leaders, the bill passed today ultimately achieves the same outcome as the infamous Stupak-Pitts Amendment, namely the likely elimination of all private as well as public insurance coverage for abortion. It imposes a bizarre requirement on insurance plan enrollees who buy coverage through the health insurance exchanges to write two monthly checks (one for an abortion care rider and one for all other health care). Even employers will have to write two separate checks for each of their employees requesting the abortion rider."

The new law requires women to make premium payments on most of their coverage and a second, far smaller one, for abortion coverage. Advocates fear that the Executive Order will make it more difficult to eliminate the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion and which should be repealed because it penalizes women for a legal medical procedure.

There is another issue affected by Obama’s Executive Order. In spite of the fact that abortion is legal in all three trimesters under clearly spelled out conditions and regulations, there is a national campaign to discourage and intimidate women, doctors, nurses, hospitals, clinics, etc. from exercising their rights under the law. This systematic harassment even violates laws when the "educational" efforts become threats and doctors are murdered.

The anti-abortion campaign has been effective in making it difficult and expensive for women to exercise their right to abortion. In many communities, no doctors or hospitals will perform this service. Some women must travel significant distances to other cities and states, find a new doctor, bring along a friend or relative, make hospital arrangements, all at significant expense. The result is that abortion services are not available in 87 percent of the counties in the U.S.

In the debate before the House of Representatives, virtually every anti-abortion speaker emphasized the sanctity of human life. Who could disagree with that principle and its application to the life and death of a child? But humanitarian and religious principles require that this be applied to all human activity: the life and health of the mother, the taking of life by the government by capital punishment, the existence of nuclear weapons that could eliminate all human life on earth.

President Obama’s political arrangement on abortion has not helped to clarify these difficult issues and has encouraged the campaign to deny legal rights to American women.

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Jerome Grossman is a longtime political activist and commentator from Massachusetts who blogs at relentlessliberal.blogspot.com.