There comes a point in the legislative season when those of us who track anti-choice bills start to get a bit bogged down by the onslaught of new legislation. So many bills get proposed that you begin to lose track of which state is banning what. For reporters, the work can be overwhelming.
But for lawmakers, this is the point in the session when tempers get a little shorter, debates get more pointed, and some politicians’ true feelings about both the bills and the people who will be subject to them become more obvious.
That’s the case in Pennsylvania, where a bill to forbid insurance coverage for abortions is up for debate. Like similar bans in other states, the bill would ban abortion coverage in any insurance plan in the state’s health-care exchange, claiming that because the plan is on a state exchange, that leaves it fungibly paid for with taxpayer dollars, even if the plans themselves are paid for by the purchaser.
“Consistent with a majority of Pennsylvanians, the House acted today to ensure no tax dollars are used for elective abortions,” Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), the state’s House Majority Leader, said in a statement. His spokesman was more blunt: “If Jane Doe wants extra insurance to fund abortions, Jane Doe can go to Blue Cross and get that separately.”
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The dismissive “this is a woman problem” attitude toward basic health-care coverage is epidemic in the current battle over reproductive health-care restrictions, from forced waiting periods to cutting off birth control access.
And the notion that women will “figure it out on their own” drips with contempt for poor individuals, who are most affected by these policies, especially when they will be forced to come up with additional medical expenses out of their own pockets.
In Iowa, an attempt to end Medicaid coverage for abortions for rape victims failed in the state senate, but anti-choice leaders are telling state lawmakers to dig in harder and even hold the budget hostage if necessary. “Several states have accomplished this. It is doable. You are a light in this building. Shine that light,” urged Family Leader Political Director Greg Baker at an anti-choice rally at the capitol, according to the Des Moines Register. Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of the Family Leader, agreed, saying, “We don’t need you to be political, but for heaven’s sake we need you to be biblical.”
Politicians will claim that it’s the “choice” they are opposed to, not the women themselves, but in Indiana, the legislature’s latest moves undermine that claim. The state is now considering cuts to its prenatal care program, despite hours of testimony claiming that the latest bill to restrict access to safe abortion by shuttering the only abortion provider covering a large area of Indiana was really about patient safety. Seen as a way to eliminate $40 million in the state budget, the legislature is now reviewing a plan to drop the eligibility level for pregnant women to get Medicaid assistance. According to anti-choice Indiana lawmakers, a single woman making more than $15,000 should have no problem paying for prenatal care out-of-pocket. The state has been seeking budget cuts in order to offer tax breaks to residents and businesses.
When the Indiana abortion bill was debated in the state house, the house speaker repeatedly remarked that providing support for pregnant women was “not germane” to abortion restriction laws. At that time, we had no idea how true that statement really was. Now, as many states reach legislative crunch time, we can expect to see a lot more politicians tell us how they really feel about women.