(Video) “I Object!” Republicans Seek to Prevent Women Congressional Leaders from Speaking About Health Care

Jodi Jacobson

In a childish effort to obstruct Congresswoman Lois Capps from speaking on the House floor on health reform, Congressman Tom Price (R-GA) repeatedly intoned "I object."

In a childish effort to obstruct Congresswoman Lois Capps from speaking on the House floor on health reform, Congressman Tom Price (R-GA) repeatedly intoned "I object."



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(VIDEO) Election 2010: Democrats Suddenly Talking About Abortion Rights

Jodi Jacobson

Democrats in tight election races are rightly calling out their Republican/Tea Party opponents for their radical social agendas.  But how does this help if the Dems don't protect sexual and reproductive rights while in office?

Since the inauguration of President Obama, the Democratic party as a whole has been largely silent on women’s sexual and reproductive rights.  Yes, a few leaders–Diana DeGette (D-CO), Lois Capps (D-CA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY) Henry Waxman (D-CA) among them–have been vocal and unabashed in their continued support of access to abortion and contraception, and to related issues, such as commonsense comprehensive sex ed.  And yes, there are those so-called “pro-life” Democrats who don’t support women’s rights anyway. But the White House has avoided the issue at every opportunity, especially during the health care debate, and other politicians chose to stand on the sidelines or too quickly support “compromises.”  So during a time when we ostensibly have a pro-choice Administration, House and Senate, women have lost coverage of abortion care under health reform, and at the state level, not to mention other losses.

Now, with painful Senate and House losses on the horizon, some Democrats have suddenly found their voice on choice, so to speak.

The New York Times reports this morning that:

Abortion rights is the flash point, being wielded by the left in hard-fought races from New York’s contest for governor, to Senate races in Florida and California, as Democratic candidates or groups try to rally their base and attract moderate Republican or independent women — a slice of the electorate that is even more coveted than in years past.

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In short, Republicans and their first cousins in the Tea Party have an increasingly radical agenda on social issues–only one example being support for laws that would convey the full rights of “personhood” on fertilized eggs (thereby outlawing not only abortion but also contraception and in-vitro fertilization), and also make it difficult if not impossible for a pregnant woman with a serious illness, such as cancer, to get treatment.

Some candidates, like the Tea Party-backed Carl Paladino, who is running against Andrew Cuomo for Governor of New York, are unabashed in their anti-choice, anti-woman positions.  In that race, NARAL Pro-Choice New York and others have taken him on, as can be seen in the video below.

But much of the ultra-right wants to hide the neon lights of its radical social agenda under a bushel, instead focusing on economic issues to get elected.  In the Colorado primaries, for example, Tea-Party/Republican Senate Candidate Ken Buck (running against Democratic Senator Michael Bennett) forcefully backed Amendment 62, the “egg-as-person” measure in Colorado.  A Buck spokesperson told the Times that Mr. Buck believed that life begins at conception and that he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest.

But concerned about falling off the right end of the chart during the Senatorial campaign, he now claims not to have clearly understood the full implications of the personhood law for, say, banning contraception. It’s a weak and weasley dodge given that one action of birth control pills is to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus, successful implantation being the medically recognized establishment of a pregnancy. If you believe a fertilized egg is a person, how can a contraceptive that impedes it from implanting be okay?

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is airing this commercial underscoring that point:

These shifts reveal both the fear by Republicans/Tea Partiers of being seen for who they are–radical on social issues–and how sloppy and cavalier they are about their endorsements of dangerous laws and policies with profound implications for women’s rights and lives.  The Democrats and progressive groups are right to call them out on these and other issues, and repeatedly so.

On the other hand, it feels to me like too little too late. 

How good is it to elect Democrats if when confronted with sweeping legislation such as health reform they don’t effectively stand up to the minority party on something so profound as the right to terminate an unintended and untenable pregnancy?  How good is it to allow time and again the assertion that even victims of rape and incest be denied the right to an abortion? How good is it to have a “pro-choice” President in the White House who appears grossly uncomfortable standing up for the rights on which he campaigned?  If Democrats when actually elected either ignore the issue or capitulate to the minority right in Congress on matters of law and policy that achieve the same ends sought by the far right, we haven’t won much.

Yes, I know, under the Republicans and the Tea Party things will be far, far worse.  I am not suggesting otherwise.  But things ain’t so great right now and its long past time for pro-choice politicians to walk their talk.

(VIDEO) Mikulski: “Universal Access to Health Care Is As ‘Pro-Life’ And ‘Whole Life’ as You Can Be”

Jodi Jacobson

Yesterday, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) took her colleague Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE)--and much of the Republican party and the anti-choice movement--"to school" in one of the most effective speeches against the Nelson (Stupak) Amendment.

Yesterday, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) took her Democratic colleague Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE)–and much of the Republican party and the anti-choice movement–"to school." 

Calling health reform that offers truly universal access both "pro-life," and "whole-life," Mikulski, by turns passionate and sardonic, made one of the most effective speeches yet against Nelson’s efforts to pass a "Stupak" amendment in the Senate’s version of the health reform bill. 

She called efforts to limit women’s ability to buy insurance policies that cover abortion care both "insulting" and "humiliating," and invoked Nathaniel Hawthorne’s A Scarlet Letter in pointing to the discrimination and stigma the Stupak and Nelson amendments would perpetuate against women.  

"I truly believe that health care reform is the most important social justice vote that we will cast in this decade," said Mikulski.

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Why?  Because we are talking about providing universal access to health care, which I believe is a basic human right and should be a fundamental American right.  That’s why health reform is so important.

"I consider these principles to be ‘pro-life,’" said Mikulski, "and ‘whole life.’"

I think the health care bill we are debating is as pro-life as you can be, because what other thing helps maintain, protect, save or deal with impaired life than providing universal access to…health care?

Taking a page from ultra-conservative evangelical pastor Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Life, which, Mikulski noted, "talks not about ‘pro-life’ but ‘whole-life’ principles," she continued:

[B]eing able to see a doctor or an appropriate health care professional saves lives and I view this vote on health care reform as pro-life or whole life as anyone can cast. 

Mikulski underscored the "pro-life" values inherent in preventive care:

I believe that supporting screening for diabetes is pro-life, cervical cancer is prolife. 

But most of all, she continued:

If you want people to have healthy pregnancies, healthy childbirth, healthy babies, they need access to health care, so that’s why i say that voting for universal access to health care is as pro-life as you can be. 

Mikulski then turned to the issue of the Nelson Amendment:

[Therefore] making this debate about abortion, I believe, is misguided and wrong.  First of all, in the bill we already deal with this.  The [current bill] does not seek to change the underlying premise of the Hyde Amendment…and in fact the pending bill goes even further  than Hyde.

The current bill:

"says loudly, clearly and consistently," Mikulski underscored:

that no federal funds can be used to pay for the coverage of abortion.  And it does it by separating out funds so that no public money from federal credits or subsidies would be used for abortions.

Language in the current Senate bill, based on the Capps amendment in the original House health care bill this summer, ensures that health care plans cannot be required to cover abortion; underscores that plans can choose to cover or not cover it; and reiterates, in Mikulski’s words, "the long-standing practicve of a strong conscience clause for…indivdiual providers or institutions."

Mikulsi then took on the Nelson amendment:

Let’s go to Nelson, which is really a Senate versin of Stupak.  I believe it is unnecessary.  I believe it is unneeded.  And I believe that it’s uncalled for.  And it goes further than Hyde because it prohibits the public option from covering abortino.  It prohibits individuals receiving federal insurance subsidies from purchasing a plan that covers abortion…even if you use your own money.

The amendment also, continued Mikulski, "allows a woman to purchase an abortion rider."

Oh boy. is this supposed to be a big deal?  Is this supposed to be the kind of thing that is supposed to make us happy?

What an insulting, humiliating thing to say: If you want an abortion go buy a rider.  I think it demonizes women.  Why don’t you just go into the workplace and paint a Scarlet letter on your forehead?  Hawthorne still lives in the Nelson Amendment.

Pointing out that no woman "plans" to have an unplanned pregnancy or an abortion, Mikulski went on to ask:

How about [we] have men buy an abortion rider for the women they get pregnant?

Hmmmmm…it’s an idea to explore…requiring all men to buy abortion riders in case they cause an unintended pregnancy. 

How about it?