There's been a lot of silly posturing about word count and document length in the healthcare reform debate on both sides of the aisle. So, after I downloaded the president's proposal for overhauling the healthcare overhaul, I thought I'd do a quick key word search of the document, which weighed in at just over ten pages.
I typed into the search tab the word "abortion."
"No matches were found," Adobe Reader told me.
OK, what about "women"?
Turns out that when the president's plan boasts that it "will end discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions," it's not being entirely truthful. At least one preexisting condition will remain: being a woman.
The Associated Press reports that the president's plan "includes Senate-passed restrictions on federal funding for abortion adamantly opposed by abortion foes as well as abortion rights supporters," but in reality the president's proposal doesn't address the issue directly.
Not that it really matters which side of Congress wins in this battle to be the legislative body that can take the most credit for eroding women's rights. The basic difference between the House and Senate bills on abortion is a sort of separate-but-equal distortion. Allow me to explain.
The Stupak Amendment in the House version, named for co-sponsor Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), expressly banned abortion coverage in the public option and for anyone receiving federal subsidies to purchase healthcare insurance via the exchange. It allows private insurers to provide coverage, but with the huge disincentive of making any plan that does provide it automatically unavailable to subsidy beneficiaries, the language could make abortion coverage virtually nonexistent in the American marketplace. Furthermore, such coverage could only be purchased through a "rider," a provision the National Women's Law Center recently called "meaningless":
Though proponents of the Stupak Amendment claim that women will have the option to purchase abortion coverage through a rider, privacy concerns, administrative barriers, the high cost of riders, and the disincentives women have to purchase insurance for any one specific health service, mean that insurance companies will not offer such riders and women will not buy them.
Five states (ND, KY, ID, OK, MO) have adopted "rider" policies similar to the Stupak Amendment. Even if a woman wanted to purchase an optional rider policy a dubious proposition at best no evidence has been found that such policies are available.
The Senate bill was supposed to be an improvement for a woman's right to choose, but functionally, the rider idea is simply replicated in a discriminatory fund segregation scheme. The Senate "compromise" would require people who want abortion coverage to send in a separate premium check every month to cover only that portion of their plan. Individual states could make abortion coverage illegal in their exchanges, and the "segregation of funds" would be policed by state entities.
When the Senate version passed, National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill criticized the "compromise," saying that it "would eventually do away with private as well as public insurance coverage for abortion care":
This dangerous provision not only further stigmatizes abortion care but it makes it nearly impossible for any health plans to offer comprehensive coverage
...it would enshrine into the country's first-ever comprehensive health care reform legislation the dangerous principle that women may be singled out for denial of legal health care.