Historic Health Reform Bill Passes But At a Price: Women’s Groups Have Mixed Reaction

Jodi Jacobson

Last night, the House of Representatives passed "historic" legislation on health care reform, with a vote of 220 to 215.  Democrats were elated at passage of the bill after months of wrangling. Reactions from women's groups has been deeply mixed.

Last night, the House of Representatives passed "historic" legislation on health care reform, with a vote of 220 to 215. 

The one Republican voting in favor of the bill (and thereby making it a "bipartisan" bill, was Joseph Cao (R-LA), who was
immediately vilified by his Republican colleagues in the House and by
conservatives in the blogosphere who engaged in a Twitter campaign condemning him. Cao is
from a largely Democratic district. 

Democrats were elated at passage of the bill after months of wrangling.

The Huffington Post reports that:

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Cao’s vote was a mere bonus for Democrats, whose spontaneous floor
celebration radically outdid the reaction of the Yankees to winning the
World Series recently. The normally stoic Pelosi had tears streaming
down her cheek. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) bent over and vigorously
pumped her fist. Arms were thrown in the air; hugs all around.

As the clock hit ten seconds, Democrats counted down the time,
finishing with an even louder cheer as Pelosi read out the tally:
220-215.

Not even the extreme pro-life amendment could dampen enthusiasm.
"We’ll live to fight that battle," said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.),
a passionate supporter of reproductive freedom. "It took a hundred
years to do health care. Nothing can dim that."

Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said it was the hardest vote he’d
ever whipped. "We crossed a threshold tonight," he said. "This was a
tough deal."

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who’d fought for a stronger public
option, was fired up, too. "I’m ecstatic. I think it was great," he
said, before adding that he wasn’t happy with the Stupak amendment or
the weaker public option.

 

Reaction from women’s groups has been mixed.

Marcia Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) said:

NWLC is both gratified that the House passed this vitally important reform for women and their families, and outraged that anti-choice forces would use this major advance to subvert essential health care for women by taking away women’s ability to purchase coverage for abortion care with their own funds in the health insurance exchanges.

The NWLC will not rest until women have health care reform that meets their essential needs, including their reproductive health care needs. The Center calls on the Administration and the leadership in the House and the Senate to secure that result in the Senate and in Conference. Any other outcome is both dangerous to women’s health and unacceptable.

Page Gardner, founder and President of Women’s Voices Women Vote  (WVWV),  called passage of the House bill "a bold and historic step toward ensuring that all Americans will truly have access to quality, affordable health care.

The passage of the Affordable Health Care for America Act brings the American people one step closer to realizing the promise of a future where no one, including millions of unmarried women, is denied access to health insurance.

Unmarried women —
single, divorced, and widowed — face unique challenges in obtaining
and keeping health insurance.  With less income, jobs that often do not
offer health insurance plans, and without access to coverage provided
by the policy of a spouse, these women often face nearly insurmountable
challenges to obtaining health insurance.

Several statements focused on the cost to women of the Stupak Amendment:

Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America condemned " the adoption of the Stupak/Pitts amendment in HR 3962 this evening."

This amendment is an unacceptable addition to the health care reform bill that, if enacted, would result in women losing health benefits they have today. Simply put, the Stupak/Pitts amendment…restrict[s] women’s access to abortion coverage in the private health insurance market, undermining the ability of women to purchase private health plans that cover abortion, even if they pay for most of the premiums with their own money. This amendment reaches much further than the Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited public funding of abortion in most instances since 1977. 

Planned Parenthood serves three million women every year through its
more than 850 affiliate health centers across the country and has
worked tirelessly on behalf of those patients for affordable, quality
health care.

On behalf of the millions of women Planned Parenthood
health centers serve, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has
no choice but to oppose HR 3962. The bill includes the Stupak/Pitts
amendment that would leave women worse off after health care reform
than they are today, violating President Obama’s promise to the
American people that no one would be forced to lose her or his present
coverage under health reform.

Debra Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women and Families stated:

Tonight’s vote in the House of Representatives in favor of the
Stupak-Pitts amendment betrays the promise of health care reform. It is
a reckless and unnecessary amendment that would endanger women’s health
and lives. It must not stand.

In voting to block private insurers from using privately paid
premiums and co-pays to cover a legal health procedure that women need,
opponents of choice are trying to use health reform to take away
coverage Americans now have. This amendment breaks the fundamental
promise of reform: that Americans will be able to keep the coverage
they have. And it ignores women’s basic reproductive health needs.

A fair compromise — worked out by Congresswoman Lois Capps —
was in place. It prohibited federal funds from being used to pay for
abortion services, but allowed plans to segregate public and private
funds so they could pay for these services with private premiums and
co-pays. There was no reason for this amendment, except to advance an
extreme ideological anti-choice agenda.

We will work tirelessly to convince lawmakers to remove this
language, and call on President Obama and leaders in both houses to
ensure that it is not in the final bill. Although the legislation
contains measures that can improve women’s health, reform that includes
this amendment would be a broken promise for women and a tainted
victory for the country.

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called House
passage of a stunning last-minute anti-choice amendment to health
reform an outrageous blow to women’s freedom and privacy — and she
vowed to fight to remove this provision as the process goes to the
Senate.

The Stupak-Pitts amendment makes it virtually impossible for private
insurance companies that participate in the new system to offer
abortion coverage to women. This would have the effect of denying women
the right to use their own personal private funds to purchase an
insurance plan with abortion coverage in the new health system — a
radical departure from the status quo. Presently, more than 85 percent
of private-insurance plans cover abortion services.

The Service Employees International Union, which ran a campaign calling on Congress not to treat women as a "preexisting condition," gave an unequivocal thumbs up to the legislation and did not mention the Stupak amendment.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Clinton Criticizes Trump’s Child-Care Proposal in Economic Speech

Ally Boguhn

Hillary Clinton may be wooing Republicans alienated by Trump, but she's also laying out economic policies that could shore up her progressive base. Meanwhile, Trump's comments about "Second Amendment people" stopping Hillary Clinton judicial appointments were roundly condemned.

Hillary Clinton may be courting Republicans, but that didn’t stop her from embracing progressive economic policies and criticizing her opponent’s child-care plan this week, and Donald Trump suggested there could be a way for “Second Amendment people” to deal with his rival’s judicial appointments should she be elected.

Clinton Blasts Trump’s Child-Care Proposal, Embraces Progressive Policies in Economic Speech

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton took aim at Republican nominee Donald Trump’s recently announced proposal to make the average cost of child care fully deductible during her own economic address Thursday in Michigan.

“We know that women are now the sole or primary breadwinner in a growing number of families. We know more Americans are cobbling together part-time work, or striking out on their own. So we have to make it easier to be good workers, good parents, and good caregivers, all at the same time,” Clinton said before pivoting to address her opponent’s plan. “That’s why I’ve set out a bold vision to make quality, affordable child care available to all Americans and limit costs to 10 percent of family income.”

“Previously, [Trump] dismissed concerns about child care,” Clinton told the crowd. “He said it was, quote, ‘not an expensive thing’ because you just need some blocks and some swings.”

“He would give wealthy families 30 or 40 cents on the dollar for their nannies, and little or nothing for millions of hard-working families trying to afford child care so they can get to work and keep the job,” she continued.

Trump’s child-care proposal has been criticized by economic and family policy experts who say his proposed deductions for the “average” cost of child care would do little to help low- and middle-wage earners and would instead advantage the wealthy. Though the details of his plan are slim, the Republican nominee’s campaign has claimed it would also allow “parents to exclude child care expenses from half of their payroll taxes.” Experts, however, told CNN doing so would be difficult to administer.

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Clinton provided a different way to cut family child-care costs: “I think instead we should expand the Child Tax Credit to provide real relief to tens of millions of working families struggling with the cost of raising children,” Clinton said in Michigan on Thursday. “The same families [Donald Trump’s] plan ignores.”

Clinton also voiced her support for several progressive policy positions in her speech, despite a recent push to feature notable Republicans who now support her in her campaign.

“In her first major economic address since her campaign began actively courting the Republicans turned off by Donald Trump, Clinton made no major pivot to the ideological center,” noted NBC News in a Thursday report on the speech. “Instead, Clinton reiterated several of the policy positions she adopted during her primary fight against Bernie Sanders, even while making a direct appeal to Independent voters and Republicans.”

Those positions included raising the minimum wage, opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, advocating for equal pay and paid family leave, and supporting a public health insurance option.

“Today’s speech shows that getting some Republicans to say Donald Trump is unfit to be president is not mutually exclusive with Clinton running on bold progressives ideas like debt-free college, expanding Social Security benefits and Wall Street reform,” said Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in a statement to NBC.

Donald Trump: Could “Second Amendment People” Stop Clinton Supreme Court Picks?

Donald Trump suggested that those who support gun ownership rights may be able to stop Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from appointing judges to the Supreme Court should she be elected.

“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment,” Trump told a crowd of supporters during a Tuesday rally in Wilmington, North Carolina. “By the way … if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people—maybe there is. I don’t know.” 

Trump campaign spokesperson Jason Miller later criticized the “dishonest media” for reporting on Trump’s comments and glossed over any criticism of the candidate in a statement posted to the campaign’s website Tuesday. “It’s called the power of unification―Second Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power,” said Miller. “And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won’t be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump.”

“This is simple—what Trump is saying is dangerous,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, in a statement responding to the Republican nominee’s suggestion. “A person seeking to be the President of the United States should not suggest violence in any way.”

Gun safety advocates and liberal groups swiftly denounced Trump’s comments as violent and inappropriate for a presidential candidate.

“This is just the latest example of Trump inciting violence at his rallies—and one that belies his fundamental misunderstanding of the Second Amendment, which should be an affront to the vast majority of responsible gun owners in America,” Erika Soto Lamb, chief communications officer of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a Tuesday statement. “He’s unfit to be president.”

Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, also said in a Tuesday press release, “There has been no shortage of inexcusable rhetoric from Trump, but suggesting gun violence is truly abhorrent. There is no place in our public discourse for this kind of statement, especially from someone seeking the nation’s highest office.”

Trump’s comments engaged in something called “stochastic terrorism,” according to David Cohen, an associate professor at the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law, in a Tuesday article for Rolling Stone.

“Stochastic terrorism, as described by a blogger who summarized the concept several years back, means using language and other forms of communication ‘to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable,’” said Cohen. “Stated differently: Trump puts out the dog whistle knowing that some dog will hear it, even though he doesn’t know which dog.”

“Those of us who work against anti-abortion violence unfortunately know all about this,” Cohen continued, pointing to an article from Valerie Tarico in which she describes a similar pattern of violent rhetoric leading up to the murders that took place at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood.

What Else We’re Reading

Though Trump has previously claimed he offered on-site child-care services for his employees, there is no record of such a program, the Associated Press reports.

History News Network attempted to track down how many historians support Trump. They only found five (besides Newt Gingrich).

In an article questioning whether Trump will energize the Latino voting bloc, Sergio Bustos and Nicholas Riccardi reported for the Associated Press: “Many Hispanic families have an immense personal stake in what happens on Election Day, but despite population numbers that should mean political power, Hispanics often can’t vote, aren’t registered to vote, or simply choose to sit out.”

A pair of physicians made the case for why Gov. Mike Pence “is radically anti-public health,” citing the Republican vice presidential candidate’s “policies on tobacco, women’s health and LGBTQ rights” in a blog for the Huffington Post.

Ivanka Trump has tried to act as a champion for woman-friendly workplace policies, but “the company that designs her clothing line, including the $157 sheath she wore during her [Republican National Convention] speech, does not offer workers a single day of paid maternity leave,” reported the Washington Post.

The chair of the American Nazi Party claimed a Trump presidency would be “a real opportunity” for white nationalists.

NPR analyzed how Clinton and Trump might take on the issue of campus sexual assault.

Rewire’s own editor in chief, Jodi Jacobson, explained in a Thursday commentary how Trump’s comments are just the latest example of Republicans’ use of violent rhetoric and intimidation in order to gain power.

News Politics

Congresswoman Pushes Intersectionality at Democratic National Convention

Christine Grimaldi

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) charges that reproductive health-care restrictions have a disproportionate impact on the poor, the urban, the rural, and people of color.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

The members of Congress who flocked to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week included a vocal advocate for the intersection of racial and reproductive justice: Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

Watson Coleman’s longstanding work in these areas “represented the intersection of who I am,” she said during a discussion in Philadelphia sponsored by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Cosmopolitan. Reproductive health-care restrictions, she stressed, have a disproportionate effect on the poor, the urban, the rural, and people of color.

“These decisions impact these communities even more so [than others],” she told Rewire in an interview. “We don’t have the alternatives that middle-class, suburban, white women have. And we’d rather they have them.”

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Watson Coleman has brought that context to her work in Congress. In less than two years on Capitol Hill, she co-founded the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls and serves on the so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, a GOP-led, $1.2 million investigation that she and her fellow Democrats have called an anti-choice “witch hunt.”

Coleman said she’s largely found support and encouragement among her fellow lawmakers during her first term as a woman of color and outspoken advocate for reproductive rights.

“What I’ve gotten from my Republican colleagues who are so adamantly against a woman’s right to choose—I don’t think it has anything to do with my being a woman or an African American, it has to do with the issue,” she said.

House Republicans have increasingly pushed anti-choice policies in advance of the ongoing August recess and November’s presidential election. The House this month passed the Conscience Protection Act, which would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face supposed coercion to provide abortion care or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in such care.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) lauded passage of the bill and the House’s thus-far unsuccessful effort to prove that Planned Parenthood profited from fetal tissue donations—allegations based on widely discredited videos published by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-choice front group that has worked closely with GOP legislators to attack funding for Planned Parenthood.

On the other side of the aisle, Watson Coleman joined 118 other House Democrats to co-sponsor the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act (HR 2972). Known as the EACH Woman Act, the legislation would overturn the Hyde Amendment and ensure that every woman has access to insurance coverage of abortion care.

The Hyde Amendment’s restriction of federal funding for abortion care represents a particularly significant barrier for people with low incomes and people of color.

The Democratic Party platform, for the first time, calls for repealing the Hyde Amendment, though the process for undoing a yearly federal appropriations rider remains unclear.

For Watson Coleman, the path forward on getting rid of the Hyde Amendment is clear on at least one point: The next president can’t go it alone.

“The president will have to have a willing Congress,” she said. She called on the electorate to “recognize that this is not a personality contest” and “remove some of those people who have just been obstructionists without having the proper evidence.”

In the meantime, what does a “willing Congress” look like for legislation with anti-choice roadblocks? A majority voting bloc helps, Watson Coleman said. But that’s not everything.

“There are lots of bills that Republicans will vote for if their leadership would simply bring them up,” she said.

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