Political InQueery: Stupak Amendment on Steroids

While the news media focuses on the debate between the two primary political parties on tax cuts and who should receive them, both in the lame duck Congress session and in the next session, organizations like NARAL are preparing for a different fight over tax dollars and tax penalties — those related to reproductive rights. If pro-choice people are congratulating themselves on the second landslide vote in Colorado against outlawing abortion, they may want to shift into preparing for this winter's fight over abortion. And much of this upcoming debate may have been brought about by the Democrat's biggest win last session: the health care reform law.

The expected next Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has accepted the endorsement of the Republican National Coalition for Life, which demands that endorsed members "indicate they are faithfully pro-life, and do not justify abortion for innocent babies who are conceived through rape or incest." He is one of at least 180 Representatives who have said they will co-sponsor the supposed "Stupak on Steroids" bill, which would ban coverage of abortion in the new health care system and impose a tax on Americans with private insurance plans if those plans cover abortion—and 87 percent of plans currently do.

The health care reform law passed by Congress this year also allowed for more latitude on the part of state governments in setting up oversight processes to protect consumers and in structuring state-level insurance exchanges. Aiding their party colleagues in the House, some Republican governors have expressed that they will provide as much resistance to the new health care system as possible. In addition to holding up implementation of the insurance exchanges, and in light of the 2010 election results, more states may join the 20 who have joined together to fight the Federal Government's requirements for people to carry coverage. (This is a separate issue than the threat from Texas' Rick Perry to pull out of Medicaid, which also would have consequences for women and working class people's health access and care.)

It's unlikely that a full repeal of health care reform will happen, at least on President Obama's watch, which is why, in part, Senator Mitch McConnell was standing in front of the Heritage Foundation last week declaring that voters needed to install a GOP president in 2012. As for the reform, McConnell said:

We may not be able to bring about straight repeal in the next two years, and we may not win every vote against targeted provisions, even though we should have bipartisan support for some. But we can compel administration officials to attempt to defend this indefensible health spending bill and other costly, government-driven measures, like the stimulus and financial reform

By attempting a piecemeal deconstruction of the just-passed law, Republicans can use their time-tested approach to dismantling reproductive rights—banning late term abortions, restricting access, setting a gag rule, requiring waiting periods or parental notification, and so on—to keep the terms of the debate in the media and attempt to continually energize their base, so that by the time 2012 rolls around, the electorate will be able to equate health reform with the classic critique of "liberal tax and spend."  And yet again the battle for the minds of voters will be waged over the bodies of women and the choices they wished they could have in peace. It remains to be seen if Democrats will play along and agree to rescind sections and leave it up to Obama to use his veto power for the first time.

Photo of Everett Maroon standing in what was once his living room in Washington, DC, with him looking at the camera a little shyly, ignoring a bright lamp on in the background.
by Everett Maroon
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Everett Maroon is a memoirist, essayist, and fiction writer originally from New Jersey and now living in Walla Walla, Washington. His blog is transplantportation.com and he tweets at @EverettMaroon.

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4 Comments Have Been Posted

Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Bart Stupak seems obsessed with mandating what other people can or can't do with their own bodies and on preventing whatever he doesn't like from being seen or heard. His desire for governmental control of women's uteruses and anti-abortion efforts are just part of his authoritarian agenda. His demagoguery about the exposure of Janet Jackson's breast at a Superbowl halftime show yielded another example of his totalitarian leanings. The fine for nipple exposure he collaborated on was overturned in the courts as being unconstitutional but in the meantime <a href="http://www.theroc.org/roc-mag/textarch/roc-19/roc19-05.htm" rel="nofollow">prosecutors will use unconstitutional obscenity laws to stifle dissent</a> and those needing medical attention will suffer. There is no question that if the onslaught of unconstitutional oppressive laws is to be stemmed President Obama will have to use his veto and in the meantime the Senate will probably not be getting much done other than having bi-partisan pork-fests.

Why are they so preoccupied with women's bodies?

I wonder what these men think of the situation in Brazil where the fifty pound nine year old girl raped by her stepfather ended up pregnant with twins. Her mother and the doctor ended up being excommunicated from the Catholic church because they "allowed" her to have an abortion. Even president Lula de Silva commented on how backwards it was for the church to even concentrate on the mother and doctor and not the stepfather that put her in the position to need an abortion in the first place. I wouldn't be surprised if they would say they agree with the excommunication.

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