While House leaders are moving toward a vote on health-care legislation by the end of the week, enough Democrats are threatening to oppose the measure over the issue of abortion to create a question about its passage.And the government funding a legal medical procedure available to women would be bad, because ... uh ... because ... because THEY SAY SO! That's why!
House leaders were still negotiating Monday with the bloc of Democrats concerned about abortion provisions in the legislation, saying that they could lead to public funding of the procedure.
"I will continue whipping my colleagues to oppose bringing the bill to the floor for a vote until a clean vote against public funding for abortion is allowed," Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Monday in a statement. He said last week that 40 Democrats could vote with him to oppose the legislation -- enough to derail the bill.In the private market? Why, yes: Because of the 1976 Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, there is a conflict between government subsidies available to people who cannot afford healthcare coverage themselves and the potentially subsidized insurance plans that cover abortion.
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, cast Stupak as "attempting to ban abortion coverage in the private insurance market."
The Democratic leadership has "backed a provision that would allow people to use subsidies under the bill to buy insurance plans that cover abortion, but only funds from individual or employer health-care premiums could go toward paying for an abortion." That would require the insurance companies to separate and track federal money from private money, with only the latter allowed to be used to pay for insurance-covered abortions.
But Stupak and some Democrats, along with congressional Republicans, have criticized this provision as an accounting distinction. They say the federal subsidies and the private payments are combined for a person to buy a health plan; therefore, federal dollars are helping fund insurance plans that allow abortions.And back to the OH NOES! Because there's no way the spineless Democrats are going to repeal the Hyde Amendment and actually allow taxpayers (who, last I checked, included lots of pro-choice women) to fund a legally available medical procedure when they can instead force women to give birth to children they can't afford and/or don't want, and then we can all complain about those despicable welfare queens and their assistance-drawing children who are totes making them filthy rich!
All of which brings me back to the title of the post, which was, as I'm sure many of you will recall, a cudgel used to try to beat feminists back into line if they even emitted a murmur that sounded anything like a contemplation to vote for a third party candidate. Following is a chunk of my piece Perfectly Logical Calculations, and Why They're Actually Not, which addressed this situation in the heat of the election:
Feminism, especially for women, is not mere political advocacy, but a philosophy centered around advocating for personal equality. When feminists/womanists are inveigled to vote for/support the Democratic candidate (and refrain from questioning his commitment to women's issues lest his candidacy be undermined), because This Issue is so important, the implicit calculation is that This Issue is priority over women's equality, reproductive rights, etc.
Because FWs have increasingly resisted taking a backseat to issues like social security when their very value as human beings is up for debate, those using this rhetorical strategy have learned that nothing is quite so effective as using Roe v. Wade as This Issue, thusly reframing the argument from "Vote for the Democrat to get what you want" to "Vote for the Democrat to not lose what you've got."
It's a nasty little bit of blackmail, which fails utterly to take into consideration that the veiled threat of losing legal abortion because of one's uncompromising belief in one's own equality and autonomy is so bitterly ironic that it would be laughable if it were not so profoundly sad. Instead of demonstrations of commitment to protecting Roe as one among many commitments to the basic feminist principle of women's equality, we are meant instead to be motivated by menace and intimidation. We're supposed to gleefully hop on board with people who ominously warn that failure to do so will evoke tragedy by our own hands—and, if we succumb, we find that even asking for basic respect, for sexist words and images and behaviors to not be used, is considered too much, an impertinence.
All we are offered is the protection of what we've already got, and nothing more.
Which makes one wonder why we'd ever be given anything more, since the threat of losing one thing is most ominous when there is only one thing to lose.
The compromise of everything else to protect this one thing is particularly problematic for feminists/womanists because being a woman is not a cause. If women's issues are ignored, we cannot simply change our skin like a losing lobbyist changes strategies. Always will we be women, and when we are asked to put our "issues" on the back burner for the good of "the larger cause," we are being asked to wait longer yet to have our equality fully realized. That is not an easy burden to indefinitely bear for thin promises.
Using Roe as a cudgel to batter FWs into line is becoming increasingly futile because the Democrats have been weak on protecting choice—and, hence, women's autonomy—for years. Yes, Roe is still in place, but the GOP has successfully chipped away at abortion rights on the federal and state levels for two decades. The point is, certainly the Democrats will nominate and approve justices who will protect Roe, but if they aren't willing to protect it from being rendered an impotent and largely symbolic statute because it's been hollowed out by "partial-birth abortion bans" and "parental consent laws" and state legislatures that refuse to fund clinics offering abortions, what does it really matter if they protect Roe?
FWs who are paying attention to what's happened to practical choice in this country know that the Roe card is already functionally meaningless at this point in large swaths of the country—and that's about the national Democratic Party as a whole, not just about its nominee in this election. The Dems are falling down on the job of serving their FW constituents in general and women specifically.
And the argument about appointing pro-Roe justices is designed, in part, to mask that failure. Not all of the restrictions on abortion rights have been decided in the court; many (if not most) are proposed and passed in state legislatures—and only those challenged in court depend on judicial appointments. Federal, state, and local funding of clinics has nothing to do with whom Democrats appoint to the bench. Fights over zoning laws and gifted property to build new clinics may also find their way to court, but oftentimes never make it that far. Anyone who still thinks that every encroachment on reproductive rights is being decided in a courtroom has some catching up to do.
A lot of progressives treat legal abortion like an on-off switch, but it's not remotely that simple. Legal abortion is only worth as much as the number of women who have reasonable and affordable and unencumbered access to it. That number is dwindling; IIRC, as of the year 2000, less than a third of the incorporated counties in the US had abortion clinics. That's not just inconvenience—between travel expenses and time off work along, the cost of securing an abortion can become an undue burden.
Realistically, if you're a woman who already has to drive three hours and across state lines to get an abortion, how much is "we'll protect Roe" actually supposed to mean to you?
Those making the Roe argument seriously need to consider what it sounds like to one of those women when she's told how her right to choose is best supported by someone who treats Roe as a magical abortion access password.
And now they should consider how much more difficult it's going to be to make that argument when there are Congressional Democrats actually holding up This Very, Very Important Issue, So Important That It Justified Using Misogyny to Get the Right People Into Office to Tackle This Issue, and So Important That Women Must Overlook Our Strategies That Demeaned Them Lest This Issue Not Get Tackled By the Right People, and holding it up with hang-wringing over the possibility that a woman's own government might accidentally help her get access to the legal medical procedure that women were supposed to vote Democrats into office to protect.
It's bad enough that the Democratic majority isn't going after the Hyde Amendment, but for a number of their members to be actively using its existence to play concern troll on abortion access is just infuriating.
And it will be remembered by this feminist next time someone asks me: "How could you even CONSIDER not voting for the Democrat?!"
My vote is mine, and I've always used it to vote Dem, but I'm getting pretty goddamn tired of giving my vote to a party whose members are reluctant to give their votes to me.
UPDATE: Also see Natasha.