Roundup: GOP Supports Big Government: Under Your Bed, In Your Bed, and In Your Medicine Chest

Jodi Jacobson

Those wild and crazy Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee can't make up their minds about big government! They like big government subsidies if they are from farm states with lots of farmers (alive, dead, whose counting?), but they don't like big government subsidies for poor women seeking, say, contraceptive supplies, breast and cervical cancer treatment, or testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (bad, bad, bad!).

Those wild and crazy Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee can’t make up their minds about big government!  They like big government subsidies if they are from states with lots of farmers (alive, dead, whose counting?), but they don’t like big government subsidies for poor women seeking, say, contraceptive supplies, breast and cervical cancer treatment, or testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (bad, bad, bad!).

They like big government if they are from western states where the feds subsidize cattle ranchers, water supplies, mining and all those manly things, but they don’t like big government subsidizing health care for the poor….you know those actually living people who are trading food for medicine because they can’t afford both at one time.

They like big government health care programs that subsidize viagra (after all, impotency does have a psychological effect on men and could lead to higher therapy bills).  They like big government to tell you not to have sex even though THEY are taking viagra (I am really confused by this one).  And they LOVE big government when we’re talking zygotes, fertilized eggs or fetuses. 

But once those teeth come in, watch out because we don’t like big government for children who need dental care, people who might lose their jobs, and certainly, absolutely, without question NOT for those irresponsible women who might find themselves pregnant, are unable to become a parent for the first time or have another child, and want to access that legal medical practice called abortion.  No….instead, the GOP (and let’s face it…too many Dems) would rather fund big government crisis pregnancy centers (which are receiving $200 million per year from the government and private "philanthropists") to give you medically inaccurate and misleading information on your own body.

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These are the only conclusions I can draw from the ongoing attempts by the GOP (and some Dems) to hold up health care reform by a) continuous attempts to deny women abortion coverage under their own private insurance policies; b) efforts to reinstate funding for abstinence-only programs; and c) ongoing misinformation campaigns by the far right.

Yesterday, for example, the Senate Finance Committee voted down a measure to require
women to buy additional insurance for abortion services.

As noted by USA Today, opponents said
such a requirement would discriminate against women and raise privacy

The amendment, offered by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, failed on a
10-13 vote. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, sided with the Democratic
majority, while Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., voted with the Republicans.

Hatch said he wanted to be sure that the emerging health care
legislation reflects laws that ban using federal funding for abortions.

The Hill reports:

"All I’m asking — my gosh — is for specific language in the bill
that prohibits federal dollars from being used to fund abortions,"
Hatch said.

Committee Chairman Max Baucus said forcing additional insurance is
"discriminating against women," while Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.,
described Hatch’s amendment as "insulting" to women.

My gosh.

But as Cathy Lynn Grossman notes in her column Faith and Reason, it’s health reform for you, and you, but….not for you, gals.

I’ll just reprint it here cause she says it best:

As the Senate Finance Committee continues its epic battle to pass
health care reform legislation, Sen. Orrin Hatch slipped in an
amendment that affects teens and young adults — women in particular:
$50-million to cover abstinence-only education — and not a penny for any other form of reproductive health ed.

one of the first public shots in an underlying issue in health care
reform– linking contraception with abortion. Eliminating abortion from
any options in tax-subsidized purchases of health insurance could very
well add up to dictating abstinence-only for people, even for married
couples, who need insurance to pay for birth control or emergency
treatment after a rape.

Signs of this effort include, according to the Iowa Independent, the American Life League’s campaign to define

emergency contraception, birth control pills and some other
contraceptives as equivalent to abortion, leaving little room for
compromise. Any health care reform bill that pays for coverage of
virtually any women’s reproductive health services, regardless of their
legality and widespread acceptance, will be morally unacceptable to

And there’s the Personhood movement in Florida, which the Orlando Sentinel says would:

outlaw all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. Also
criminalized: the morning-after pill and oral contraceptives taken by
women, known as the pill.

Does this square with the views of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who says on his web site
that Americans want "more choice" from health reform and they don’t
want to let "a new federal bureaucrat make health care decisions that
should be left to patients and their doctors."

he means all health care decisions? Or are reproductive choices not
included? Should Congress stand between a woman and her doctor on
whether she has a baby?

And in other news…..


October 1

American Spectator: Senate Committee Holds Fast for Abortion Washington University apologizes to St. Louis University for suggesting Jesuit school took part in abortion training for doctors

Time: Why Restoring Abstinence Funding Isn’t the End of the World

Tulsa World: New abortion bill challenged

Deseret News: Hatch undeterred by anti-abortion defeat

National Post: Adoption agencies to face stiffer monitoring

Chicago Tribune: Chicago City Council panel backs plan to limit anti-abortion activists

LA Times: Abortion language heats up healthcare battle

September 30

NYTimes: House Leaders Trying to Give All Democrats a Say

USA Today: Senate panel rejects abortion-insurance mandate

NYTimes: Abortion and Health Care Reform

NYTimes: Incompetence Ruling in Killing of Abortion Protester

HuffPo: Ordinance Would Create ‘Bubble’ To Protect Abortion Patients, Providers From Protesters

Jackson County Chronicle: LETTER: Read bills to be informed about abortion

Catholic Online: How Natural Family Planning Changed My Life

LifeNews: Kansas Pro-Life Group Wants Attorney General to Monitor Underage Abortions

LifeNews: Arizona Courts Don’t Deal Full Blow to Pro-Life Laws Limiting Abortions

NYTimes: Senate Finance Committee Rejects Effort to Tighten Abortion Restrictions

LifeSiteNews: CCCB Plenary Presenter Advocated Obama as the ‘Pro-Life Candidate,’ Was Criticized by His Bishop

NYTimes: Young, Single, Uncertain Mom-to-Be

U.S. News & World Report: Democrats Score an Abortion Rights Victory in Healthcare Bill

Houston Chronicle: Hutchison criticizes abortion-funding vote

Daily Campus: Obama in tight spot over abortion coverage

USA Today: Health reform: Choices for you & you but not you, gals

Chicago Sun-Times: Proposal would protect those seeking abortions

Feminists for Choice: Recession-Proofing Your Birth Control

LifeNews: Poll Shows Americans Want Government to Promote Traditional, Pro-Life Values

Center for American Progress: Abortion Funding Fundamentals

World Magazine: The pro-choice argument against healthcare reform

NPR: The National Review: Pelosi & Co. Talk Abortion

September 29

Kansas Liberty: Pro-life organization charges AG with lax enforcement of abortion monitoring

Young Feminist Task Force: Bring It to Anti-Choice, Anti-Birth Control Bob McDonnell!

News Law and Policy

Anti-Choice Group: End Clinic ‘Bubble Zones’ for Chicago Abortion Patients

Michelle D. Anderson

Chicago officials in October 2009 passed the "bubble zone" ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support.

An anti-choice group has announced plans to file a lawsuit and launch a public protest over Chicago’s nearly seven-year-old “bubble zone” ordinance for patients seeking care at local abortion clinics.

The Pro-Life Action League, an anti-choice group based in Chicago, announced on its website that its lawyers at the Thomas More Society would file the lawsuit this week.

City officials in October 2009 passed the ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support. The law makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion clinic once that person is within 50 feet of the entrance, if the person did not give their consent.

Those found violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500.

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Harassment of people seeking abortion care has been well documented. A 2013 survey from the National Abortion Federation found that 92 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express personal safety concerns.

The ordinance targets people seeking to pass a leaflet or handbill or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way.” The regulation bans the use of force, threat of force and physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or health-care facility.

The Pro-Life Action League lamented on its website that the law makes it difficult for anti-choice sidewalk counselors “to reach abortion-bound mothers.” The group suggested that lawmakers created the ordinance to create confusion and that police have repeatedly violated counselors’ First Amendment rights.

“Chicago police have been misapplying it from Day One, and it’s caused endless problems for our faithful sidewalk counselors,” the group said.

The League said it would protest and hold a press conference outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Julie Lynn, a Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider is preparing for the protest.

“We plan to have volunteer escorts at the health center to make sure all patients have safe access to the entrance,” Lynn said.

The anti-choice group has suggested that its lawsuit would be successful because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

Pam Sutherland, vice president of public policy and education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune back then that the health-care provider expected the city’s bubble zone to be challenged following the 2014 decision.

But in an effort to avoid legal challenges, Chicago city officials had based its bubble zone law on a Colorado law that created an eight-foot no-approach zone within 100 feet of all health-care facilities, according to the Tribune. Sidewalk counselor Leila Hill and others challenged that Colorado law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.

Commentary Human Rights

When It Comes to Zika and Abortion, Disabled People Are Too Often Used as a Rhetorical Device

s.e. smith

Anti-choicers shame parents facing a prenatal diagnosis and considering abortion, even though they don't back up their advocacy up with support. The pro-choice movement, on the other hand, often finds itself caught between defending abortion as an absolute personal right and suggesting that some lived potentials are worth more than others.

There’s only one reason anyone should ever get an abortion: Because that person is pregnant and does not want to be. As soon as anyone—whether they are pro- or anti-choice—starts bringing up qualifiers, exceptions, and scary monsters under the bed, things get problematic. They establish the seeds of a good abortion/bad abortion dichotomy, in which some abortions are deemed “worthier” than others.

And with the Zika virus reaching the United States and the stakes getting more tangible for many Americans, that arbitrary designation is on a lot of minds—especially where the possibility of developmentally impaired fetuses is concerned. As a result, people with disabilities are more often being used as a rhetorical device for or against abortion rights rather than viewed as actualized human beings.

Here’s what we know about Zika and pregnancy: The virus has been linked to microcephaly, hearing loss, impaired growth, vision problems, and some anomalies of brain development when a fetus is exposed during pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sometimes these anomalies are fatal, and patients miscarry their pregnancies. Sometimes they are not. Being infected with Zika is not a guarantee that a fetus will develop developmental impairments.

We need to know much, much more about Zika and pregnancy. At this stage, commonsense precautions when necessary like sleeping under a mosquito net, using insect repellant, and having protected sex to prevent Zika infection in pregnancy are reasonable, given the established link between Zika and developmental anomalies. But the panicked tenor of the conversation about Zika and pregnancy has become troubling.

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In Latin America, where Zika has rampantly spread in the last few years, extremely tough abortion restrictions often deprive patients of reproductive autonomy, to the point where many face the possibility of criminal charges for seeking abortion. Currently, requests for abortions are spiking. Some patients have turned to services like Women on Web, which provides assistance with accessing medical abortion services in nations where they are difficult or impossible to find.

For pro-choice advocates in the United States, the situation in Latin America is further evidence of the need to protect abortion access in our own country. Many have specifically using Zika to advocate against 20-week limits on abortion—which are already unconstitutional, and should be condemned as such. Less than 2 percent of abortions take place after 20 weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The pro-choice community is often quick to defend these abortions, arguing that the vast majority take place in cases where the life of the patient is threatened, the fetus has anomalies incompatible with life, or the fetus has severe developmental impairments. Microcephaly, though rare, is an example of an impairment that isn’t diagnosable until late in the second trimester or early in the third, so when patients opt for termination, they run smack up against 20-week bans.

Thanks to the high profile of Zika in the news, fetal anomalies are becoming a talking point on both sides of the abortion divide: Hence the dire headlines sensationalizing the idea that politicians want to force patients to give birth to disabled children. The implication of leaning on these emotional angles, rather than ones based on the law or on human rights, is that Zika causes disabilities, and no one would want to have a disabled child. Some of this rhetoric is likely entirely subconscious, but it reflects internalized attitudes about disabled people, and it’s a dogwhistle to many in the disability community.

Anti-choicers, meanwhile, are leveraging that argument in the other direction, suggesting that patients with Zika will want to kill their precious babies because they aren’t perfect, and that therefore it’s necessary to clamp down on abortion restrictions to protect the “unborn.” Last weekend, for instance, failed presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced that he doesn’t support access to abortion for pregnant patients with the Zika virus who might, as a consequence, run the risk of having babies with microcephaly. Hardline anti-choicers, unsurprisingly, applauded him for taking a stand to protect life.

Both sides are using the wrong leverage in their arguments. An uptick in unmet abortion need is disturbing, yes—because it means that patients are not getting necessary health care. While it may be Zika exposing the issue of late, it’s a symptom, not the problem. Patients should be able to choose to get an abortion for whatever reason and at whatever time, and that right shouldn’t be defended with disingenuous arguments that use disability for cover. The issue with not being able to access abortions after 20 weeks, for example, isn’t that patients cannot access therapeutic abortions for fetuses with anomalies, but that patients cannot access abortions after 20 weeks.

The insistence from pro-choice advocates on justifying abortions after 20 weeks around specific, seemingly involuntary instances, suggests that so-called “late term abortions” need to be circumstantially defended, which retrenches abortion stigma. Few advocates seem to be willing to venture into the troubled waters of fighting for the right to abortions for any reason after 20 weeks. In part, that reflects an incremental approach to securing rights, but it may also betray some squeamishness. Patients don’t need to excuse their abortions, and the continual haste to do so by many pro-choice advocates makes it seem like a 20-week or later abortion is something wrong, something that might make patients feel ashamed depending on their reasons. There’s nothing shameful about needing abortion care after 20 weeks.

And, as it follows, nor is there ever a “bad” reason for termination. Conservatives are fond of using gruesome language targeted at patients who choose to abort for apparent fetal disability diagnoses in an attempt to shame them into believing that they are bad people for choosing to terminate their pregnancies. They use the specter of murdering disabled babies to advance not just social attitudes, but actual policy. Republican Gov. Mike Pence, for example, signed an Indiana law banning abortion on the basis of disability into law, though it was just blocked by a judge. Ohio considered a similar bill, while North Dakota tried to ban disability-related abortions only to be stymied in court. Other states require mandatory counseling when patients are diagnosed with fetal anomalies, with information about “perinatal hospice,” implying that patients have a moral responsibility to carry a pregnancy to term even if the fetus has impairments so significant that survival is questionable and that measures must be taken to “protect” fetuses against “hasty” abortions.

Conservative rhetoric tends to exceptionalize disability, with terms like “special needs child” and implications that disabled people are angelic, inspirational, and sometimes educational by nature of being disabled. A child with Down syndrome isn’t just a disabled child under this framework, for example, but a valuable lesson to the people around her. Terminating a pregnancy for disability is sometimes treated as even worse than terminating an apparently healthy pregnancy by those attempting to demonize abortion. This approach to abortion for disability uses disabled people as pawns to advance abortion restrictions, playing upon base emotions in the ultimate quest to make it functionally impossible to access abortion services. And conservatives can tar opponents of such laws with claims that they hate disabled people—even though many disabled people themselves oppose these patronizing policies, created to address a false epidemic of abortions for disability.

When those on either side of the abortion debate suggest that the default response to a given diagnosis is abortion, people living with that diagnosis hear that their lives are not valued. This argument implies that life with a disability is not worth living, and that it is a natural response for many to wish to terminate in cases of fetal anomalies. This rhetoric often collapses radically different diagnoses under the same roof; some impairments are lethal, others can pose significant challenges, and in other cases, people can enjoy excellent quality of life if they are provided with access to the services they need.

Many parents facing a prenatal diagnosis have never interacted with disabled people, don’t know very much about the disability in question, and are feeling overwhelmed. Anti-choicers want to force them to listen to lectures at the least and claim this is for everyone’s good, which is a gross violation of personal privacy, especially since they don’t back their advocacy up with support for disability programs that would make a comfortable, happy life with a complex impairment possible. The pro-choice movement, on the other hand, often finds itself caught between the imperative to defend abortion as an absolute personal right and suggesting that some lived potentials are worth more than others. It’s a disturbing line of argument to take, alienating people who might otherwise be very supportive of abortion rights.

It’s clearly tempting to use Zika as a political football in the abortion debate, and for conservatives, doing so is taking advantage of a well-established playbook. Pro-choicers, however, would do better to walk off the field, because defending abortion access on the sole grounds that a fetus might have a disability rings very familiar and uncomfortable alarm bells for many in the disability community.


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