Written by Rebecca Sive for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.
On International Women’s Day, I imagined the White House full of cooing, hugging women, celebrating the wonder of the world’s and America’s women, and I had to ask: where’s the wonder?
To coin a cliché: Where’s the beef?
Here’s my beef: We, the women of America, are being told by those on-high, starting with those who might have been at the White House on International Women’s Day, including Nancy Pelosi–the most important woman in America right about now–that American women’s most fundamental right, our right to control our reproductive destiny, should be of no consequence in the effort to reform healthcare.
Yup, that’s the bottom line for the Speaker, the bottom line she reached Thursday, near the end of her soon-to-be, five-month death march to wreckoncilation. "This is not about abortion," the Speaker said, when even the most politically untrained, outside-the-Beltway bystander knows otherwise.
Well, Madame Speaker: You would be wrong about that. "Abortion could be health bill deal breaker in House," according to the D.C.-insiders’ bible, Politico.
Yup, Madame Speaker, right-about-now healthcare reform is about nothing but abortion, as some of us have been saying all along it would be; in fact, as some of us were saying it would need to be, if there were to be any justice in this enterprise. And, Madame Speaker, truth-be-told, you and the President have also known this, at least since last November, four months and counting, ago, when "…[You were] forced to give [Rep. Bart] Stupak a floor vote that incorporated his strict abortion funding provision," in order to pass your healthcare reform bill.
Four months and a day later, Rep. Stupak would be right: "’Nothing has changed,’ said [Rep.] Stupak. ‘I don’t think they have the votes to pass it (a healthcare reform bill without Stupak Amendment-type language re access to abortion)."
Madame Speaker, like it or not, and I say it again, Rep. Stupak is right: The future of (your and the President’s) healthcare reform has come down to this: Can you and the White House come to a winning plan on how to deal with access to abortion.
Why? Because access to abortion is the marker of women’s equality, and who are you and the President, if you’re willing to win without this?
Madame Speaker: But for legal access to abortion, no American woman has equal opportunity. I can’t believe this is something you don’t want.
And, anyway, Rep. Stupak is playing hardball: What choice do you have?
Madame Speaker: I know that you and other inside-the-Beltway women’s-issues’ dealmakers, not to mention your post-racial, post-feminist thirty-something staffers don’t like hearing this, but it’s true. I know you’d all rather spend International Women’s Day lauding one another and having us laud you. Well, no can do.
And anyway, the proof of my point is, so-to-speak, in the (Catholic Bishop’s) pudding. They’re cooking up lots, right about now.
Just look at how hard they are fighting to prevent access to abortion, just because they know what you’ll know too, in your heart-of-hearts, and here I repeat: Access to abortion is the marker of women’s equality.
And, as if all this pudding could get any more distasteful, take a good, hard look at just how the Bishops are cooking it up–doing just what politicians (and bishops) do when things get really right-down-to-it: Covering-up their real intentions with lofty sentiments about morality and justice while they cook-away, and deal-away, behind closed doors, hoping those of us out in the hinterlands are lulled into complacency by talk of morality and justice.
Madame Speaker, to coin another cliché: "This will never do."
So, Madame Speaker, please read these theses I’ve nailed to your D.C.-church door, otherwise known as the House of Representatives:
1) There is no proof that we can’t have a healthcare reform bill, providing for unfettered access to abortion, just as it does for all other lawful medical procedures. Why? Because we haven’t yet heard any at-the-table Beltway-dealmakers, say that healthcare reform is an oxymoron if it doesn’t provide for women’s equal access to healthcare, and then fight for just that.
By contrast, Rep. Stupak and his merry anti-choice band are doing what true believers generally do: They are fighting really, really smart, and really, really hard for what they (truly) believe in.
Madame Speaker: Are you a true believer (in women’s equality)?
Madame Speaker: Why are you going down without a fight, especially for the sake of rich-as-Croesus-already health insurers, who are just going to get richer, once your Stupak-lite passes, because the risk pool they’ll then be insuring will be getting riskier (once all those people with expensive pre-existing conditions are in the pool), and so premium costs will go up even more than they already have.
And, Madame Speaker, even if there’s some, as yet unshared-with-the-public proof that the only healthcare bill that could ever be on the table for a vote in 2010 is Stupak-lite, why in the world should the women Members and Senators–led down that rose-garden path by you–vote for Stupak-lite? Because something is better than nothing?
I don’t buy it. See above for starters. There hasn’t been battle-one yet.
How about an equally aggressive fight, led by you? How about saying something this evening at The White House?!
This takes me to thesis two.
2) "I won’t always be there with you."
Some in Chicago heard the President–in the earliest months of his Presidential campaign–say just those words, talking about the issue of abortion.
Yup, just as I’ve been writing in these pages for months: The President never promised us a Rose Garden. And boy has he kept his promise. Not once during this year of speaking, meeting, deal-making, power-breaking, think-tanking, and healthcare-summiting has the President ever said that women’s health is as important as men’s, and that, therefore, it ought to be recognized as such in his healthcare reform bill.
So, maybe, you’ve been thinking all this time that, ah gee, he’ll come home when it really matters. Well, he hasn’t. Not to our home.
Instead, when the President finally stated his legislative preference for a healthcare reform bill over a year into his Presidency, and almost four months after Mr. Stupak had his say (and his wish come true), the President’s preference was for the healthcare bill passed by the U.S. Senate: Yup, that one.
Stupak-lite, and that’s putting the best face on it. Stupak-lite: The one that contains noxious, rabidly anti-women language, effectively mooting American women’s constitutionally protected access to abortion.
Stupak-lite: The one that has no public option, no national health insurance exchange, (but, instead, state-based health insurance exchanges, permitting a network of anti-women local pols to govern American women’s healthcare; boy, that’s worked out really well for women), and no employer mandate to provide health insurance (even at the employee’s own expense). Well, you get the drift.
Stupak-lite: The one that is really, really light, not-to-say ephemeral, when it comes to protecting the women of America.
3) Sisterhood is powerful, but it is only powerful when it advances the rights of all sisters. [Neither Stupak-lite, nor the current federal laws governing access to abortion, do that for American women.]
Madame Speaker: According to published reports, when the proverbial "[healthcare reform] s(…) hit the fan" last Thursday, you called to your office a group of Beltway women’s-issues advocates and power brokers.
Did anyone at that meeting ask you whether you think it’s right–for the women of America–that you and other women Members and Senators are mooting our constitutional right for the sake of Stupak-lite?
Assuming you said "yes," or, alternatively, that you said "no, but that’s the only choice I have," why do you sound so righteous as you discard the rights of your sisters?
Why do you sound so righteous when neither Stupak-lite, nor the current federal laws governing access to abortion, do that for American women?
4)Some bill, any bill, (won’t) do.
Madam Speaker, I feel like we’re all becoming slaves to Baltimore, or Chicago, or Beltway art-of-the-possible approaches to governing, ones you and the President know so well; ones that say some bill, any bill, will do; ones that say that the only failed health reform bill is no health reform bill.
For, God-forbid, Barack Obama should have the same stripe on his back as Bill Clinton: The one that says: I failed to pass a health reform bill. For, God-forbid Rahm should return to Chicago as just another rich investment banker, former D.C. insider who couldn’t get the big one done. God-forbid you should go down in history as a Speaker who couldn’t get the big one done, either. The women of America will just have to be sacrificed to avoid all this unpleasantness.
5) Madame Speaker: I repeat: That will never do.
Madame Speaker: Hear this: The only healthcare reform bill that matters right now is about abortion, and that’s a good thing. And here’s why. As you sit in those oh-so-lovely White House and Capitol rooms this International Women’s Day, remember this: What you give away today will never suffice; they’ll just ask for more tomorrow. That’s how Washington works; that’s how men in power work; that’s how women in power who don’t care about other women work. That’s wreckonciliation.
So, you might as well fight for what really matters: Fight for our (not God-given, but even better than that, Supreme-Court given) right to abortion. Fight for reconciliation.