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Monday, November 02, 2009

Win, Win, Win

by digby

I've been assuming that access to abortion was going to be sacrificed in the health care debate, but it's probably going to be worse than I thought:

The bill also prevents affordability credits from being used to pay for abortion coverage; the credits would help middle-class and working-class Americans purchase insurance coverage on the private market. Eighty-seven percent of existing private insurance plans cover abortion, which is significantly cheaper and less medically risky than pregnancy and childbirth. After reform, if insurers want to continue to provide such care, the House bill would require them to segregate all government funding from the co-pays individuals pay into the plans. Abortions could only be paid for out of the “private” side of the ledger.

In addition, in each state, the health-insurance market must include one plan that does cover abortion, and one plan that does not. But because the vast majority of insurers currently do cover the procedure, pro-choicers view the provision as a step forward for the opposition. “That kind of leans toward the pro-life position,” Waxman said.

Pro-life Democrats have been especially influential in the health reform process because so many of them are considered swing voters on the overall package. Rep. Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat with strong ties to the religious right, has emerged as a spokesman for antiabortion sentiments in both parties. He continues to push forward in an attempt to amend the Pelosi bill to restrict abortion even further. Stupak’s goal is to outlaw all abortion coverage within the health-insurance exchanges, requiring women to purchase a special “rider” for abortion services. But according to health-care experts, few women anticipate needing an abortion and thus would be unlikely to pay extra for the coverage—even though about half of American women experience an unintended pregnancy in their lifetimes, and one-third of American women have had an abortion.

Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, which researches reproductive health issues, told The Daily Beast, “Currently, it’s not that we can’t pay for coverage that includes abortions. It’s that we can’t cover abortions. The [Stupak] standard is stricter than the standard in Hyde.”

Abortion-rights activists regard Stupak as “obsessed,” motivated by religious beliefs, and unwilling to compromise. They allege that he may not truly support the president’s effort to overhaul the health-care system, pointing out his ties to groups like Focus on the Family and the National Right to Life Committee, which opposed the expansion of S-CHIP, the state program that provides health care to poor children.

Stupak is clearly trying to tank health care reform and think that abortion rights are the way to do it. But it's really win win for them, either way. If it doesn't tank the bill completely, it will likely be because the Democrats refuse to fight for abortion coverage, so the anti-choice zealots win a big one even if some form of withered health care reform passes.

But this was probably ordained the minute Obama made his position known:

Pro-choice leaders disagree about whether more support from the White House could have strengthened their hand in the health-reform battle. In addition to the failed efforts to include comprehensive abortion coverage in the public plan, efforts to require private health insurance coverage of birth control also fell flat. In 1993, Hillary Clinton explicitly told Congress that she expected pregnancy and abortion to be treated in health reform like any other medical service. This year, though, Obama sent a different message, telling Katie Couric in July, “I think we also have a tradition of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care. Rather than wade into that issue at this point, I think that it’s appropriate for us to figure out how to just deliver on the cost savings, and not get distracted by the abortion debate at this station.”

A different tone from the White House might have helped pro-choice groups, Waxman said. “We would like significant support from the administration on women exercising their constitutional rights,” she said.

Of course it would have made a difference if Obama had said that he believed that all women should have access to health insurance that covers abortion but he didn't. He pretty much wrote it off from the beginning and left the field open for the zealots to tighten restrictions even more.

What Stupak and his crowd really hope to do is declare all the money going into the exchanges fungible so that no insurance companies can offer abortion coverage under the execrable Hyde Amendment. But no worries. Women could buy it as a rider, basically having to pay extra because they have the added responsibility of bearing children. If they don't want to pay for that "extra" insurance, they could abstain from sex or be prepared to have a child every other year if their birth control fails. (Maybe they should have thought ahead a little bit and been born men.) There's no reason that that the non-sluts and decent people in this country should have to pay for something so icky.

Here's my advice. If women have to buy abortion coverage as a rider, all men have to buy special erection insurance in case they need medical care for sexual dysfunction. As far as I'm concerned, if a man can't get it up, it's God's will and I can't in good conscience have my money touch any money that pays for that. Those Viagra ads literally make my stomach lurch. It's very, very icky.

As I have written before, I think this is a lost cause and was probably lost before the debate even began when the president bought into "common ground" nonsense. Even though some lame form of health care reform, likely with an even lamer opt-in public option, is going to hit the floors, everyone will insist that they simply have to further restrict millions of women's ability to exercise their constitutional rights in order to appease "moderates." And then the Republicans can run against the whole reform as a liberal nightmare. Awesome.