I often marvel at the actions of the anti-choice movement; they’re creative, I’ll give ‘em that. And with the convening of the 112th Congress, they’ll have even more opportunities to make mischief. Just this week, and with a straight face, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., introduced a proposal (H.R. 3) aimed at “ending all federal funding for abortion services” – as if there were not already a ban on such funding.
Newly-minted House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, immediately jumped on the bandwagon, saying the Smith measure would fulfill a plank in the GOP’s Pledge to America. In a particularly insensitive move, the bill won’t even allow for abortion coverage to many women who are victims of rape, incest, or suffering dangerous pregnancies. Smith would narrow assistance to only victims of “forcible” rape (is there any other kind?), incest victims only if they’re a minor, and women whose life – not health – is at risk if they continue their pregnancies.
So, courtesy of Smith, we now get to revisit one of the most vitriolic fights of the health care debate. And let’s be clear – the Smith bill is not about reinforcing current law. It’s a thinly-veiled attempt to further expand the Hyde Amendment, which already bans federal funding of abortions or health care benefits that cover such services. Further, the Hyde Amendment was already expanded under the new health care law. Now, Smith and anti-choice groups are coming back for another bite at the apple.
This is why the anti-choice lobby’s strategy is so crafty: they pounce on any opportunity to chip-chip-chip away at reproductive rights. The new health care law “compromise” actually requires women to buy different insurance policies if they want abortion coverage, paid for with separate checks. Literally, it requires women to plan to have an unplanned pregnancy. Where’s the logic in that? Of course, there is none – unless your goal is to restrict access to a legal health care procedure. This type of restriction will force private insurance companies to choose between eliminating abortion coverage for all insured members and being eligible to serve patients receiving federal subsidies. Millions and millions of women who currently have abortion coverage under these plans will lose it because of this cumbersome stipulation, effectively ending most coverage for abortion services and instituting what amounts to a domestic gag rule.
If you’re an anti-choice politician, this additional restriction is a victory. But for the women of America, it’s another example of policy makers inserting themselves into the deeply personal decision-making process of reproductive health choices – a basic, vital element of women’s health care that should remain private like other health care services.
Lisa Maatz is the Director of Public Policy and Government Relations at the American Association of University Women. As its top policy adviser, Maatz works to advance AAUW’s priority issues on Capitol Hill and in the White House. She is a sought-after speaker across the nation and on Capitol Hill, and leads several coalitions advancing opportunities for women and girls. Recently featured in the book, Secrets of Powerful Women, Maatz has developed a reputation for her strategic approach to legislation and advocacy.
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