Stupak and Health Reform’s Second Trimester

Rebecca Sive

In the first trimester, we were introduced to the Stupak Amendment. Now, in the second trimester of healthcare reform, access to abortion gets an even bigger setback.

In the (political) heat of late March, in the first trimester of President Obama’s proposed, and then signed, Executive Order “codifying” The Hyde Amendment (a deal done for Rep. Bart Stupak, he of the Stupak Amendment), in order to get the President’s healthcare reform legislation, “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”) passed, I called on the Speaker of the House, the women U.S. Senators, and the leaders of the national pro-choice organizations to call for aborting the Executive Order. 

They didn’t, and a few days later, surrounded, (only, and with no press present), by Bart Stupak and his equally rabid, anti-choice ring members, the President signed Mr. Stupak’s evil Order.

Why was I so direct, so inflammatory in my call-to-action? Well, exactly because I wanted to sound a very loud alarm, for fear of what might be coming down the pike, if we failed to “bust the cap” on this disingenuous (keep reading) Executive Order. I feared that unless we busted it, we’d be faced with just the sort of (hatred-of-women) next steps we’ve–surprise, surprise– experienced this week.

You ask: What happened? I thought this was a great week, what with financial reform and capping the BP oil well and all? Well, not so fast, it turns out.

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Turns out, earlier this week, in this, the (equally hot, politically), but second trimester of the President’s Hyde-redux-and-more, Stupak-evil, though the President said otherwise, (keep reading) Executive Order, it became clear that the White House had instructed Kathleen Sibelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, to avoid any dustups about abortion in her regs’-writing for the healthcare reform bill, no matter the cost to America in the loss of American women’s lives.

How to do this?

Well, for starters, deny women, any woman in any state, even a woman proposing to spend her own money (lest there be any doubt about how The White House really feels about abortion), from obtaining an abortion, if she’s (we thought lucky, but how wrong we were), a member of her state’s high-risk insurance pool, part of the President’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act).

No matter, the lives of women in ill health (and, therefore, in the high-risk pool), for whom an abortion might be a vitally needed medical procedure. The President’s poll numbers are in the dumpster. Unless you’ve been raped, are a victim of incest, or your life has been endangered, you’re SOL.

Mr. President: A word to the wise:  Better not further jeopardize your standing, when we’re not sure whether the BP cap won’t go bust. Mr. President:  A word to the wise, even if it becomes clear you’ve gone back on your staff’s statements that your Stupak-evil Order doesn’t do anything more than “codify” existing law. Better to continue to say, albeit falsely, that the Stupak Amendment you once said you wouldn’t abide (either) wouldn’t be a part of anything you do. This abortion matter? Well, it’s just too touchy to do otherwise (even if “otherwise” is the right thing for half of all Americans).

In fact, and as we all know, the Executive Order was nothing but a most willingly made sop to Rep. Stupak. For, after all (after months and months and months of all—all that healthcare wrangling), it was Mr. Stupak’s vote that stood in the way of passage of the healthcare reform law, the one for the history books the President most wanted.

As such, the Executive Order’s creation and signing was a deeply hypocritical and cynical act.  “Hypocritical,” because it did not do (only) what the President’s men said it would do—“codify” existing law, i.e., The Hyde Amendment. “Cynical,” because the Order’s utility depended on the willingness of White House women-leader allies to suspend disbelief, and say: Oh, yes, we agree, when you say that this isn’t going beyond The Hyde Amendment (knowing that it did).

Do you think for one minute that Bob Bauer, the President’s campaign and personal, political lawyer, now his White House Counsel, didn’t know all the potential ramifications (read: opportunities) of the Executive Order—both for the law and for the politics—when he directed his staff to draft the Executive Order?

Do you think for one minute that Don Verrilli, an Associate White House Counsel, rumored to be appointed U.S. Solicitor General–once Elena Kagan is confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice–missed this either? 

Not, hardly: These guys are really, really smart. These guys don’t miss these things: That’s why they are doing what they are doing. That’s why they are where they are.

Putting the best face on it, Mr. Bauer and Mr. Verrilli saw what the White House women-leader allies also saw, and, again, like the pro-choice leaders, didn’t protest, for fear the whole healthcare reform applecart would be upset.

But, make no mistake:  Mr. Bauer and Mr. Verrilli also saw the Executive Order as a useful context for massaging federal healthcare reform regulations that could help diminish dustups over abortion; dustups never good for a President or a President’s men’s futures.

Why was the Executive Order AT ALL NECESSARY if all it did was “codify” existing law? The answer is it wasn’t, because it didn’t. And now we’re in the dumpster: Read here:

So now, in the Executive Order’s second trimester, we have the leaders of our pro-choice movement asking the government to “reconsider” (Marcia Greenberger for the National Women’s Law Center); expressing their “deep disappointment,” and calling on us to protest (Cecile Richards for Planned Parenthood); and remonstrating that these regulations are neither necessary as a legal matter (for they go beyond The Hyde Amendment), nor useful as a policy matter (because the women most likely to be in the state-based high risk pools are among those most likely to have complications from pregnancy and therefore needing an abortion (Laura Murphy for the ACLU)).

Like I said:  The Executive Order should have been aborted.

I’ve argued in these pages for many months that the ameliorative approach national pro-choice leaders have pursued with this Presidential administration –pursued both by the leaders representing the big organizations, and by those making the laws in Congress–is fatally flawed. I think we now have proof. [It’s a short distance from the dumpster to the graveyard.]

Further, I believe this acquiescence, and its requisite suspension of disbelief, has led to the abandonment of American women in most need, i.e., to the presence of anti-choice wolves at their doorsteps, in every state.

The strategy is accomodationist. It’s post-facto. It violates the first rule of organizing to win (on the people’s behalf):  Know your bottom line, and how to get it, before you walk into any meeting. Otherwise, don’t walk in:  Scream, holler, embarrass, and demand, until you’re on equal footing and can negotiate a fair deal.

Sure, I’ll negotiate with you ad nauseum, instead of refusing to participate until my demand for equal treatment is met (Barbara Boxer in the Senate). Sure, I’ll send threatening letters with no force of law or policy (Diana DeGette in the House), in hopes that you’ll do the right thing. Sure, I’ll support you when you tell me it’s a good idea to (only) “codify” in an Executive Order something, (The Hyde Amendment), which, by any measure, has been horrible for women for over two generations (The Speaker and her pro-choice Member leaders). Sure, I’ll believe you when you say that this Executive Order won’t have any additional force of law in any upcoming circumstance that matters to women’s health (again, the Speaker and the women Members).  Sure, I’ll believe you, Mr. President–when you sign Mr. Stupak’s evil Order–with no press present and surrounded by the architects of hateful acts against my sisters–when you tell me nothing is amiss.

In no way that I can see is this a strategy for winning the war to protect America’s women and ensure their equal rights. This is appeasement. And history tells us that, until appeasement is set aside, people die. Today, in America, those dead people will be American women.

“Bust the cap (on it);” bust the cap on this well of cowardice.

Earlier this week, I drove across upstate New York on my way home to Chicago. Mid-afternoon, I approached the Thruway exit for Seneca Falls. I thought:  Why not stop?  Why not pay my respects to our foremothers, to women who wouldn’t know acquiescence or appeasement if it hit them over the head.  So, I did. And here’s what I got to read when I got there:

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

“….[W]hen a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them [American women] under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government…Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity, which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.”

News Sexual Health

State with Nation’s Highest Chlamydia Rate Enacts New Restrictions on Sex Ed

Nicole Knight Shine

By requiring sexual education instructors to be certified teachers, the Alaska legislature is targeting Planned Parenthood, which is the largest nonprofit provider of such educational services in the state.

Alaska is imposing a new hurdle on comprehensive sexual health education with a law restricting schools to only hiring certificated school teachers to teach or supervise sex ed classes.

The broad and controversial education bill, HB 156, became law Thursday night without the signature of Gov. Bill Walker, a former Republican who switched his party affiliation to Independent in 2014. HB 156 requires school boards to vet and approve sex ed materials and instructors, making sex ed the “most scrutinized subject in the state,” according to reproductive health advocates.

Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers of Alaska’s legislature.

Championing the restrictions was state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla), who called sexuality a “new concept” during a Senate Education Committee meeting in April. Dunleavy added the restrictions to HB 156 after the failure of an earlier measure that barred abortion providers—meaning Planned Parenthood—from teaching sex ed.

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Dunleavy has long targeted Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest nonprofit provider of sexual health education, calling its instruction “indoctrination.”

Meanwhile, advocates argue that evidence-based health education is sorely needed in a state that reported 787.5 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people in 2014—the nation’s highest rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Surveillance Survey for that year.

Alaska’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average.

The governor in a statement described his decision as a “very close call.”

“Given that this bill will have a broad and wide-ranging effect on education statewide, I have decided to allow HB 156 to become law without my signature,” Walker said.

Teachers, parents, and advocates had urged Walker to veto HB 156. Alaska’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Amy Jo Meiners, took to Twitter following Walker’s announcement, writing, as reported by Juneau Empire, “This will cause such a burden on teachers [and] our partners in health education, including parents [and] health [professionals].”

An Anchorage parent and grandparent described her opposition to the bill in an op-ed, writing, “There is no doubt that HB 156 is designed to make it harder to access real sexual health education …. Although our state faces its largest budget crisis in history, certain members of the Legislature spent a lot of time worrying that teenagers are receiving information about their own bodies.”

Jessica Cler, Alaska public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, called Walker’s decision a “crushing blow for comprehensive and medically accurate sexual health education” in a statement.

She added that Walker’s “lack of action today has put the education of thousands of teens in Alaska at risk. This is designed to do one thing: Block students from accessing the sex education they need on safe sex and healthy relationships.”

The law follows the 2016 Legislative Round-up released this week by advocacy group Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. The report found that 63 percent of bills this year sought to improve sex ed, but more than a quarter undermined student rights or the quality of instruction by various means, including “promoting misinformation and an anti-abortion agenda.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: ‘If You Don’t Vote … You Are Trifling’

Ally Boguhn

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party's convention.

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party’s convention.

DNC Chair Marcia Fudge: “If You Don’t Vote, You Are Ungrateful, You Are Lazy, and You Are Trifling”

The chair of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), criticized those who choose to sit out the election while speaking on the final day of the convention.

“If you want a decent education for your children, you had better vote,” Fudge told the party’s women’s caucus, which had convened to discuss what is at stake for women and reproductive health and rights this election season.

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“If you want to make sure that hungry children are fed, you had better vote,” said Fudge. “If you want to be sure that all the women who survive solely on Social Security will not go into poverty immediately, you had better vote.”

“And if you don’t vote, let me tell you something, there is no excuse for you. If you don’t vote, you don’t count,” she said.

“So as I leave, I’m just going to say this to you. You tell them I said it, and I’m not hesitant about it. If you don’t vote, you are ungrateful, you are lazy, and you are trifling.”

The congresswoman’s website notes that she represents a state where some legislators have “attempted to suppress voting by certain populations” by pushing voting restrictions that “hit vulnerable communities the hardest.”

Ohio has recently made headlines for enacting changes that would make it harder to vote, including rolling back the state’s early voting period and purging its voter rolls of those who have not voted for six years.

Fudge, however, has worked to expand access to voting by co-sponsoring the federal Voting Rights Amendment Act, which would restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that were stripped by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.

“Mothers of the Movement” Take the National Spotlight

In July 2015, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that 28-year-old Sandra Bland had been found dead in her jail cell that morning due to “what appears to be self-asphyxiation.” Though police attempted to paint the death a suicide, Bland’s family has denied that she would have ended her own life given that she had just secured a new job and had not displayed any suicidal tendencies.

Bland’s death sparked national outcry from activists who demanded an investigation, and inspired the hashtag #SayHerName to draw attention to the deaths of Black women who died at the hands of police.

Tuesday night at the DNC, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and a group of other Black women who have lost children to gun violence, in police custody, or at the hands of police—the “Mothers of the Movement”—told the country why the deaths of their children should matter to voters. They offered their support to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during a speech at the convention.

“One year ago yesterday, I lived the worst nightmare anyone could imagine. I watched as my daughter was lowered into the ground in a coffin,” said Geneva Reed-Veal.

“Six other women have died in custody that same month: Kindra Chapman, Alexis McGovern, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Raynette Turner, Ralkina Jones, and Joyce Curnell. So many of our children are gone, but they are not forgotten,” she continued. 

“You don’t stop being a mom when your child dies,” said Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis. “His life ended the day that he was shot and killed for playing loud music. But my job as his mother didn’t.” 

McBath said that though she had lost her son, she continued to work to protect his legacy. “We’re going to keep telling our children’s stories and we’re urging you to say their names,” she said. “And we’re also going to keep using our voices and our votes to support leaders, like Hillary Clinton, who will help us protect one another so that this club of heartbroken mothers stops growing.” 

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, called herself “an unwilling participant in this movement,” noting that she “would not have signed up for this, [nor would] any other mother that’s standing here with me today.” 

“But I am here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who is in heaven, and … his brother, Jahvaris Fulton, who is still here on Earth,” Fulton said. “I did not want this spotlight. But I will do everything I can to focus some of this light on the pain of a path out of the darkness.”

What Else We’re Reading

Renee Bracey Sherman explained in Glamour why Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s position on abortion scares her.

NARAL’s Ilyse Hogue told Cosmopolitan why she shared her abortion story on stage at the DNC.

Lilly Workneh, the Huffington Post’s Black Voices senior editor, explained how the DNC was “powered by a bevy of remarkable black women.”

Rebecca Traister wrote about how Clinton’s historic nomination puts the Democratic nominee “one step closer to making the impossible possible.”

Rewire attended a Democrats for Life of America event while in Philadelphia for the convention and fact-checked the group’s executive director.

A woman may have finally clinched the nomination for a major political party, but Judith Warner in Politico Magazine took on whether the “glass ceiling” has really been cracked for women in politics.

With Clinton’s nomination, “Dozens of other women across the country, in interviews at their offices or alongside their children, also said they felt on the cusp of a major, collective step forward,” reported Jodi Kantor for the New York Times.

According to Philly.com, Philadelphia’s Maternity Care Coalition staffed “eight curtained breast-feeding stalls on site [at the DNC], complete with comfy chairs, side tables, and electrical outlets.” Republicans reportedly offered similar accommodations at their convention the week before.