Thursday, December 3, 2009

A "Woman's Right To Choose and the Stupak Amendment" by Eva Robertson

It is interesting that while the overwhelming majority of Americans support health care reform and a "public option," now less than half of this country supports abortion rights. And many people, even pro-choice advocates, believe that the 11th hour Stupak Amendment contained in the most recent house bill on health care -- restricting the right of any person or insurer to use federal subsidies to purchase or offer a health care plan that includes abortion coverage -- is an acceptable compromise in getting health care reform passed.

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


  1. Eva, I mostly agree with your views about women having rights but not expecting men or society to pay for them. Here is what I take issue with:

    "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".

    I do need to say that in my experience, having worked for 8 years for a pregnancy clinic helping women deal with unwanted or unplanned pregnancies, it was rarely the choice of the women with meager means, to terminate their pregnancies. Almost always, it was women WITH money to pay for them. This is one of the great fallacies of this argument - that women need their abortions subsidized by the government. It is mostly women with social lives, careers, ambition, who opt for that route. I have friends who had money but didn't want the mess that an unplanned pregnancy would have created in their lives at the time, who aborted their babies. I know personally, many young girls who got pregnant and kept their babies. Yes they get food stamps and are on Medicaid and anything else they can qualify for, but they wanted those babies and were excited about having them.

    This is the way this has played out since Margaret Sanger first dreamed all this up. She had many goals, some noble and some not. She thought that the poorer of society would benefit from abortion since they couldn't afford to have children. These are a couple of her ideas:

    On the purpose of birth control:
    The purpose in promoting birth control was "to create a race of thoroughbreds," she wrote in the Birth Control Review, Nov. 1921 (p. 2)

    On the rights of the handicapped and mentally ill, and racial minorities:
    "More children from the fit, less from the unfit -- that is the chief aim of birth control." Birth Control Review, May 1919, p. 12

    Her ideas are well documented, and one of her highest goals was to help create a master race, eliminating the stupid, mentally ill, and lower classes of people. She promoted upper class, white, wealthy, intelligent, etc. having the children. This has actually backfired in a big way since the women getting the most abortions are the very ones she hoped would reproduce! Poorer families have more children. We even have the famous welfare babies that bring bigger government checks!

    I think more needs to be done to educate people about the proper use of readily available birth control. I know for a fact that any 12 year old can walk into a state health department and be given free birth control pills, without parental knowledge or consent. What is not stressed enough is the need to take them at the same time every day, no skipping them! Young girls drink, party, have sex, miss pills, and then go "OOPS!"

    Yes, society has many problems, but we do disagree on solutions. You can fund 100%, all unplanned pregnancies, and you will still find the group of people you are concerned about keeping the babies!

  2. As an adult man, I disagree with you both. We must address why young girls/women feel the strong need to "drink, party, have sex, miss pills, and then go 'OOPS!'".

    Perhaps it is an inherent internal rage thrust upon them by modern radical ultra-leftist feminism? This type of feminism is inherently at odds and engaged in battle with natural feminism. The struggle obviously leads to internal rage within many women. This rage is then reflected back onto society like a mirror. Society must understand the source of this female rage and unhappiness before we can completely address unwanted pregnancies.

    Abstinence is also an important factor. I do not understand why neither of you address abstinence in your postulations, for it is quite perplexing indeed. It is as though you take pre-marital sex as a given.

    Perhaps if more people homeschooled their children like Ms. McCumsey, pre-marital "OOPS-WHOOPSY" sex wouldn't be an issue? I'm sure that abstinence is the "centerpiece" of homeschooling sex education.

    Of course, we must also endeavor to understand that one can never totally "judge a book by its cover."

    Happy Holidays!

  3. Lisa -- thanks for that perspective. What you say makes a whole lot of sense. And interestingly, too, most women of means choose not to use available insurance coverage to fund their abortions (or so I've read).

    I have no experience in pregnancy clinics, but I do know Planned Parenthood feels that stricter abortion coverage laws will negatively affect the disenfranchised women in our country. And I know that when I worked in Philadelphia as a prosecutor there were countless stories of infant abandonment and abuse by women either unaware of or burdened by unplanned pregnancies.

    Margaret Sanger's approach is frightening and distasteful in today's world, but I think as a society we do need to to be proactive about reducing the number of babies born to women who cannot care for them and who are not responsible enough to prevent a pregnancy. We talk about women's rights -- what about the newborn's rights? That is an argument that should move the pro-lifers. These babies are born with deformities, drug addiction, fetal alcohol syndrome . . . . there is no such thing as the American dream for them. There is absolutely zero hope for them, and so they are, in my view, wholly the responsibility of society. They might as well not have mothers.

  4. Anonymous -- As a woman, I don't recognize this "internal rage" of which you speak. Is it not possible for women AND MEN to be irresponsible in their sexual activity without being angry?

    And what is "natural feminism"? If feminism has anything natural about it, then why were women oppressed for centuries prior to the feminist movement (however one might define that), and why are women in many parts of the world still oppressed?

    I can appreciate the idea that there is something "natural" about the way time and circumstance conspired to produce a feminist movement in the western world, but then what is happening now as a result of that movement -- all the "posts" and the offshoots and the backlash -- this, too, must be viewed as a "natural" consequence of feminism.

    I do not address abstinence because of the evidence that preaching and teaching it does not work. But otherwise, I think it's a good way to go, at least until the parties involved are ready to deal with the consequences of their choice to have sex.

    I have several friends who have home schooled their children. Abstinence was not part of the curriculum.

  5. Ms. Robertson -- why did you thank Ms. McCumsey for her perspective, but you did not thank me for my perspective? Am I not worthy of thanks as well? In the viewpoint of "modern" feminism, are we not "equal" in our abilities to thank one another for differing views as we explore these issues openly and honestly?

    With that said, I THANK YOU for presenting your views, and I will proceed to explain why you are incorrect.

    Before I postulate the difference between "modern" feminism and "natural" feminism, I would like to pose this question to you -- do you consider a woman who thoroughly and completely enjoys being a loving wife and mother without a career outside the home to be an oppressed female???

    Next, I believe both you and Ms. McCumsey may be taking a much, much more animalistic, physical approach to human sexual intimacy than I. You are seemingly neglecting the aspect of human sexuality that emanates from the spiritual divine...meaning human sexual intimacy is meant to be the solemn, spiritual methodology for the connection of two souls while in human physical form. Human sexual intimacy was not meant for young girls to have "OOPSY-WHOOPSY" sexual encounters as Ms. McCumsey has postulated. That type behavior is purely irresponsible and most likely does not emanate from the spiritual divine in the majority of cases. To say "here's birth control pills, but make sure you take them every day -- NO SKIPPING" is the "simpleton" road to take for a solution.

    Continuing, anyone who believes that women are not primarily in complete control of sexual encounters is seemingly not living in reality. Unless in the case of rape and/or incest, women control sexual activity through the power of the word NO. This is simple intellectual deduction, for any other argument is simply twaddle.

    You state that "evidence that preaching and teaching abstinence does not work", but yet you also state that you "think it's a good way to go". With all due respect, you cannot have it both ways here. Either something is good or its not. You cannot argue that it doesn't work but yet also argue that it has merit as well. You are contradicting yourself. If you feel that abstinence is "good", then inherently you are arguing that it does indeed work if practiced!!!!! THANK YOU for making the point for me.

    As you have postulated abstinence being "good", then obviously it should be a part of all educational curriculum (both public and private), would you not agree??? Should young girls not have THE CHOICE of abstinence???

    Ms. McCumsey - I am quite, quite curious to also hear your thoughts on this discussion.

    Happy New Year to you both!

  6. Ms. McCumsey -- I am curious. With which pregnancy clinic did you work for 8 years? Was this a paid or volunteer position?

    Happy New Year!

  7. Anonymous,

    I'm sorry I didn't thank you for your perspective. I disagree with your views and they do not present a perspective, like Ms. McCumsey's, that I am unfamiliar with. I think that is why it didn't occur to me to thank you. But I certainly respect your views, and I did not mean to be rude.

    I do not think that women who choose to be homemakers and and to forgo a career outside the home are oppressed. Not at all. They are lucky, because many women cannot afford such a life. I am privileged enough to enjoy this situation currently, and I am happy and grateful for it.

    That said, I do think women are vulnerable when their whole identity is tied to creating opportunities for their children and spouses, and when the home is the only place they feel comfortable or competent. Also, I think women should have all the choices available to them outside the home that men have, because many women are not fulfilled by a life of domesticity.

    I certainly appreciate your view on the meaning and purpose of sexual intimacy, but sex also functions as a means of reproduction, and certainly not all people see it as an exclusively serious and solemn activity. I'm not sure it's fair to say that they should adopt your viewpoint, either.

    I fully agree with you that it is within a woman's power to say "no" to sex, where rape is not involved. I don't think I ever argued otherwise.

    Also, I do not believe there is anything inconsistent about saying that preaching abstinence doesn't work, and acknowledging that abstinence is the best way to avoid pregnancy. There is no question that it is. But just because one behavior may be better than another in a certain situation, it does not follow that the best way to avoid the undesirable behavior is to interdict it. I think this is especially true when it comes to government. And I think it is especially true when it comes to sex, which is not an inherently "bad" thing. Abstinence may work for some families. For a significant portion of today's youth, however, education and protection is probably the best way to maximize responsible behavior. I think it is unrealistic to think we're going to get everyone on the same page about sex, even when we're dealing with the children of devout parents. The evidence shows that they don't always do what their parents and religious advisors preach, even if they say they will.

  8. Ms. Robertson - you still did not (or could not) simply say THANK YOU for my perspective. And it is MY PERPSECTIVE that you CANNOT in ANY WAY be familiar with unless you have been a man, underwent a sex change, and now are a woman??? Is this the case for you???

    And with your "apology", you are now being condescending toward me.

    Frankly, your logic goes in circles. Debate is impossible with someone who engages in circular logic.

    Both you and Ms. McCumsey should just admit that many women (i.e. "young girls") ACTUALLY want to be "wild and crazy" in sexual exploits...they don't want to abstain and save themselves for marriage. This is the rationale for "OOPSY-WHOOPSY" sex as postulated by Ms. McCumsey, and that is also Ms. McCumsey's rationale for increasing "education" on birth control pills.

    Clearly, you admit that abstinence is the best way to go to avoid pregnancy, but yet, you argue that preaching it doesn't work. This is quite, quite confusing and illogical.

    ABSTINENCE = 100% birth control

    It works every time!!!!!

    Let's just all admit that your objective is not to persuade "young girls" to NOT have sex as a way to prevent pregancy...the objective is to give "young girls" the freedom to be "wild and crazy" sexually without any pregnancy consequences. That's both your and Ms. McCumsey's objective -- plain and simple. Neither of you want any other alternative such as abstinence.

    With that said, I think the two of you should go into the birth control pill and condom distribution business. Who knows, perhaps you can buy them by the pallet at Costco or Sam's Club then sell them on the streets of Harrisonburg...and Staunton too. Perhaps they could be included in "gift sets" at The Frontier Culture Museum to help offset state budget cuts...the possibilities are endless.

    Good luck! And THANK YOU for your perspective.

    I will no longer participate in this is the case with so many women, you clearly are not interested in a genuine male perspective and alternative solution.

  9. Hi again folks!!! A recent study was released providing evidence that abstinence education can work!!! This begs the question to Ms. Robertson and Ms. McCumsey -- why are you opposed to THE CHOICE of abstinence education???

    As Rush Limbaugh would say -- SEE, I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!



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I write for lots of different venues, so this blog provides links to those places. Plus, occasionally, stuff that appears no where else . . .