Tuesday, November 10, 2009

No Choice

In an interview on ABC, President Obama indicated that he would like to see the Stupak amendment revised if not removed from the healthcare bill when it emerges from the Senate.

On the one hand, Mr. Obama said, “we’re not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions.”

On the other hand, he said, he wanted to make sure “we’re not restricting women’s insurance choices,” because he had promised that “if you’re happy and satisfied with the insurance that you have, it’s not going to change.”

Simply put, the Stupak amendment makes funding for an abortion completely outside the scope of the healthcare reform bill and nearly impossible for anyone to buy insurance that covers abortions without paying extra for it. The intent is to prevent tax dollars going to pay for a legal operation that some people don’t like, and while they may think the sentiment and intent is noble and life-affirming, all it really does is stigmatize people who, at a time of extreme stress, find that there is yet another barrier thrown up in their way.

In addition to the obvious fact that this amendment simply reeks of privilege and misogyny, it puts forth the theory that we have the right to choose what our tax dollars can and cannot pay for, and if you can gather up enough influence and lung-power, you can negotiate away the rights of women in exchange for passing a bill through the House by the thinnest of margins.

I suppose it would be nice if we could decide what our tax dollars go to pay for based on our own personal beliefs. For example, as a conscientious objector, I don’t like to pay for guns, bombs, and other things that are designed solely for the purpose of waging war. Nor do I like the idea that my state taxes go to indirectly support charter schools that take students out of public schools and thereby deprive the local school boards of revenue. But the 1040 form doesn’t have a line-item veto, and while I respect those who choose not to pay their taxes for war (and are willing to take the consequences for their actions), I realize that if we’re going to be a society that takes care of us all, we have to pay for things we wouldn’t do so voluntarily if we were given the choice. That means if I as a pacifist have to pay for guns, then anti-abortion supporters have to pay for insurance for all of us, which includes women who might need to avail themselves of abortion services. It would also seem that the irony is lost on those people who worry about government interference in healthcare and carry on that bureaucrats would stand between a patient and their doctor would devise an amendment that tapeworms the government into almost every aspect of a woman’s right to choose and how to pay for it.

Last but not least, the Stupak amendment is aimed only at women. There is no amendment in the bill that keeps the government paying for men-only services such as vasectomies, which are seen by some as a form of contraception and therefore against the teachings of the every-sperm-is-sacred crowd, or prescriptions for Viagra. Funny how that didn’t, um, come up during the debate. But this separate-but-equal treatment of women’s health is not only acceptable but used as a bargaining chip in order to accomplish the goal of getting the bill passed with the assurance that it will be taken out during the conference to merge the House and Senate bills. Funny how those assurances seem to be forgotten when the doors are closed and the real bargains are made. Once again, women are used as objects. Sic semper cynics.

If the Democrats are truly going to go forward and pass the transcendent legislation that provides affordable healthcare to all Americans, it follows that they do it in a way that truly does so and not negotiate away the rights of 52% of Americans in an attempt to win the votes of Republicans who have made it very clear that they wouldn’t vote for the bill if it was delivered with candy and a stripper. So why try? The choice should be pretty obvious, and at least they have the option of making it.