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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Forced Pregnancy For Sick People

by digby

There is a lot of legitimate outrage in the pro-choice community over the administration's recent statement that the new high risk pools won't allow women with pre-existing conditions to access abortion overage. Evidently, the Nelson amendment wasn't restrictive enough, so they agreed to enact Stupak for the sickest, most vulnerable women out there. It was sadly predictable, considering the sturm and drang during the waning days of the health care debate, but it's still jarring to see just how cowardly the Democrats are these days on this issue.

Conservative epistemic relativism defines this latest skirmish in the abortion wars. You see, they are working themselves into a frenzy over this, which might strike you as odd since the rules for the high risk pools didn't diverge from the overall health care bill. But the forced pregnancy forces went crazy with misinformation --- and the administration backed down in the face of it.

Dana Goldstein explains what happened:

...the new abortion ban is not required by either the health-care reform bill or the president’s March executive order, which promised that no federal funds would be spent on abortions in the health insurance exchanges that launch in 2014. That order stopped short of banning abortion coverage, instead adopting Sen. Ben Nelson’s proposal for a dual accounting system in which federal dollars cannot be used to fund abortion but consumers’ private insurance co-pays and deductibles can. The order did not mention the pre-existing condition insurance plan at all.

The controversy began Tuesday, when the conservative National Right to Life Committee released a statement claiming that Pennsylvania’s version of the pre-existing condition insurance program would use federal dollars to fund abortion coverage. As other social conservative groups, such as the Family Research Council, piled on, a key fact was obscured: Customers in these new high-risk insurance pools are expected to pay up to $600 monthly out of pocket for the coverage, which will be provided by private insurance companies.

In other words, though the federal government subsidized the coverage, there is no reason why abortions could not be paid for by private monies, under the very dual-accounting structure set-up by the president’s executive order.

But instead of clarifying that point, the Department of Health and Human Services responded by declaring, “Abortions will not be covered in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan except in the cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered.”

This was a perfect "Nelson" example. Women with pre-existing conditions would be allowed to get insurance coverage from a pool of private insurers, some of which could be subsidized by the government. Abortion coverage would not be included in these policies, but a woman who wanted to purchase that coverage could do so by buying a separate rider that only covers abortion and pay for it separately so good Christian money would never have to touch it. That was the deal, and a raw deal it was. Women have a constitutional right to control their own reproductive lives and there is no reason that it shouldn't be a standard part of any insurance policy.

However, Nelson was the compromise and it is the law: women who buy policies under the auspices of the health care exchanges will be allowed to buy abortion coverage with their own money, and there's no reason the high risk pools should be governed by the (equally inhumane and stupid) Federal Employees Health Plan, something that was never even discussed as far as I know. Indeed, it's a much bigger problem for these people because they literally have no choice --- they are already sick and can't get any insurance at all at the moment. Slut shaming women with a serious disease is even more immoral than usual --- but that never stopped a "pro-life" advocate from making a cheap political point.

One of the reasons that pro-choice advocates fought Nelson and Stupak so hard was because we knew it was moving the goalposts and would never be enough for the forced pregnancy zealots. And they have just demonstrated in living color that the facts and the Nelson amendment process are not going to matter. When the exchanges come on line and it turns out that some insurer is offering coverage for abortion, they will simply start screaming at the top of their lungs that their tax dollars are funding abortion and the insurers will stop offering it. If they don't, the insurance executives will find themselves picketed with pictures of bloody fetuses and eventually some nutcase will put the their picture on a web site and somebody will get shot. I think everybody understands the scenario by now. It's called terrorism, and it's very effective.

Corporations do not fight for causes and they won't endanger their bottom lines. They will throw up their hands and surrender without firing a shot. (The Obama HHS just set the example, after all.) Within a short time, there will be no more insurance coverage for abortion in America. It was baked into this Rube Goldberg health care bill from the minute the Stupak forces raised a fuss.(And that's assuming the Republicans don't take the majority --- they would outlaw abortion coverage in any insurance exchange immediately, which I would like to assume president Obama would veto. Under a GOP president, they'll definitely pass it.)

Interestingly, Stupak really does seem to have learned a lesson about his fanatical allies in the forced pregnancy camp. Here's his statement:

“This is the latest example of some right to life groups politicizing life issues in an effort to undermine health care reform. The President’s Executive Order makes clear that federal funds may not be used for abortion under the Affordable Care Act – including the pre-existing condition insurance pools currently being implemented in Pennsylvania and states across the country. In accordance with the Executive Order, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has directed states that federal funds provided under health care reform may not be used to fund abortion. HHS has reiterated this policy in response to the current accusations from the National Right to Life Committee. While these recycled scare tactics may make for good headlines, we should not lose sight of the fact that tens of thousands of individuals across the nation who have been denied coverage by health insurance companies due to pre-existing conditions will for the first time have access to affordable health insurance. We need to take a whole life approach to health care which looks out for those who are out of the womb as well as those in the womb.”

Sounds like somebody's had a wake-up call that his "pro-life" friends are all lying fanatics. Too bad it's too late.