In a way, I can see the reasoning behind accepting this provision. The bill contains sweeping reforms -- a public option, drastic changes in regulation governing the insurance industry, and increased access to coverage. If lawmakers believed the Stupak Amendment might be enough to satisfy the right wingers and buy their co-operation on the goal of sweeping reform, well -- it's a bitter pill to swallow -- but mightn't it be worth it?
This amendment goes much further than the previous federal legislation banning use of federal money to cover abortions. Under the 1976 Hyde Amendment, private and state insurers could offer health care plans with abortion coverage as long as no federal funding was used to pay for the service. Under the Stupak amendment, however, no insurer – private or government -- may offer a plan that includes abortion coverage if any federal money is used to fund the plan or if any participating member of the plan receives a federal subsidy, and under the bill, approximately 86 % of women would be eligible for a subsidy. In effect, the new legislation would eradicate existing abortion coverage and require women to purchase a "supplemental policy" on the private market, something that is not currently available, and which it is unlikely insurers would see any financial benefit in offering.
I take control over my body for granted. But I am constantly reminded that I live in a society that, by and large, views my right of self-determination as limited. On a purely theoretical level and provided rape is not involved, I can envision having respect for a society and a legal system that, while allowing women the choice of how to deal with a pregnancy, yet also, as a matter of policy, imposed sole responsibility on her for the costs of an elective abortion. As women’s rights proponents, can we legitimately complain that men dominate our bodies in the social, political and private spheres, and then also ask them to support and subsidize elective abortions? Maybe we can, but to the extent a woman’s decision to abort is uniquely personal to her, a requirement that society foot the bill for her choice would seem to undercut her moral independence.
In practical terms, however, there are tens of thousands of unwanted children born every year to impoverished young women who are neither prepared nor willing to care for those children. This is ultimately society's problem and responsibility. The social and economic costs of ignoring this reality are getting ever uglier. The Stupak amendment may not affect abortion access for women of means, but it promises to deepen the class chasm that is at the root of the women’s health care crisis.
Eva Robertson lives in Harrisonburg. She writes the blog Dogwood Diarist.blogspot.com.