Stay tuned to Abortion Gang for more blog posts on CLPP!
Stay tuned to Abortion Gang for more blog posts on CLPP!
Here’s what some of us at Abortion Gang have been paying attention to lately:
Most of my reading has been for classes but this week we are talking about conscientious objection and with the Supreme Court cases coming up this has been one of my favorite break downs of what’s at stake in this decision: http://kff.org/womens-health-policy/issue-brief/all-eyes-on-the-supreme-court-more-than-birth-control-at-stake/
Kaiser does a great job of outlining how this case isn’t only about contraceptive coverage and religious freedom, but also whether corporations should be considered people and the implications this case could have on corporate law.
I’m reading my friend Tiffany’s post on why she’s fasting to support immigration reform: http://365breakfasts.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/fasting-for-families/
Steph and Chanel’s piece on abortion stigma and culture change at Cosmo: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/celebrity/news/these-women-want-to-change-the-way-you-think-about-abortion
Latest Hyde blog post from Andrew Jenkins at Choice USA: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/healthcare/200991-abortion-hyde-and-the-presidents-2015-budget
Taja Lindley on RH Reality Check about queer women & sexual health: http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/03/18/exam-rooms-bedrooms-navigating-queer-sexual-health/
I’ve been reading about abortion access in Latin America using resources at the Guttmacher Institute and an article from RH Reality Check called The Politics of Abortion in Latin America.
I’ve been watching the hysteria from the anti-abortion zealots over the coathanger necklaces from the DC Abortion Fund , and am giddy at the thought of how much DCAF has been able to capitalize on the negative publicity to help women in need. Looking forward to being able to spot fellow supporters on the street and be able to match up our necklaces like a secret handshake. This is my personal favorite blog post I’ve seen.
I’ve been reading up on the Hobby Lobby birth control case, and am looking forward to standing outside of the Supreme Court in DC on Tuesday with other women’s healthcare supporters as oral arguments are heard.
In NC, we had a hell of a year in 2014 with a Motorcycle Vagina law that threatened to close every clinic but one, a wonderful clinic in the furthest corner of our state called Femcare (if you have a short memory or live under a rock, catch up on Motorcycle Vagina here and here.) With the 2014 session starting in less than two months and NC feminists waiting at the doors to find out how our general assembly will continue their path of destruction, Femcare’s owner has decided to retire and put the clinic up for sale. Planned Parenthood has announced plans to open a health center providing abortions in the same town and we await further developments. There is a lot of uncertainty and some genuine concern about making sure one of our most dedicated NC providers is treated well.
I believe that health care is a human right, which is why I have been a long time supporter of health care reform. When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed, while I realized it wasn’t going to be the answer to all of our healthcare problems, I also knew that it was a step in the right direction. And now it’s game time! The roll out of the ACA has started and I feel very strongly about being an out and proud fan of the ACA and doing everything I can to help it be as successful as possible. But the problem is, the ACA actually really sucks when it comes to abortion coverage and it’s been making me think, as an abortion supporter, how do I negotiate fully supporting a law that may actually make access to abortion harder?
Before we dive into that, let’s take a look at abortion coverage in the ACA.
1) Abortion cannot be listed as an essential health benefit. The ACA outlines 10 essential benefit categories that must be covered in health insurance plans, and the specific requirements are determined by each state. The ACA prohibits states from including abortion as an essential health benefit.
2) The Hyde Amendment is still in place. The Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funding to cover abortions except in the case of rape, incest or endangerment of the life of the pregnant person, still applies. A big part of the ACA is the optional state expansion of Medicaid to persons up to 133% of the federal poverty guideline. While the Medicaid expansion is great for increasing coverage to low income people, with the Hyde Amendment in place Medicaid will continue not to cover elective abortions unless someone lives in one of the 17 states that only uses state money to pay for abortions.
3) No federal funds, including federal subsidies used to buy health insurance, can be used to pay for elective abortions. If a health insurance plan in the healthcare exchanges offers abortion services for cases other than incest, rape or endangerment of the pregnant person, plans have to follow segregation requirements to make sure that no federal money is used to pay for abortion services. This means that individuals have to make two separate premium payments: one for the payment of abortion coverage which they have to use their own money for, and another payment for the remainder of the coverage which can use federal subsidies.
4) All state health insurance exchanges must offer one plan that does not cover abortion. But there is nothing that requires that there is at least one plan that DOES cover abortion.
Put all together, we end up with a system that fails to recognize abortion as an essential health right, expands the Hyde Amendment restrictions to more people, and creates a really complicated system for abortion coverage. Now it’s important to remember that the rules regarding the separate premium payments only applies to insurance bought in the state healthcare exchanges. So for people with private employer based insurance that covers abortion these rules won’t affect them. But considering that the health care exchanges are set up for people who should benefit from federal subsidies and don’t have any other access to health insurance, it continues to make access to abortion harder for people who may need it most. Also, the separate health insurance premium for abortion coverage, could act like an abortion rider that people can choose to purchase. So instead of someone just buying one insurance policy to cover everything, they’d have to choose to buy a separate policy for abortion coverage, and make two separate payments. But that takes away the whole point of having insurance because it’s supposed to protect us from the unexpected and as we all know, no one plans to have an abortion. What’s even worse is that insurance companies may become less willing to provide abortion coverage because of the hassle and red tape they have to go through to collect separate payments. And on top of that, there is also a lot of state variation. Already, 18 states have prohibited abortion coverage in any plans in the state exchanges and nine states have prohibited abortion coverage in the entire private health insurance market.
Basically that’s a lot of bad news. Sure, it’s great that the ACA will cover preventative services and now we can access birth control with no copay, but the problem is that people need access to the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health care. People will always need abortions and we have a fundamental right to access them just like any other healthcare service. If the purpose of the ACA is to increase access to health insurance and consequently access to healthcare, it feels disingenuous to be perpetuating a system where not all healthcare services are treated equally. Not only does it affect access, but it continues the stigma and shame surrounding abortion.
So where do we go from here? The most important thing is to keep working hard to increase abortion access to those who need it. The ACA will make abortion funds, and sexual and reproductive health clinics as important as ever and they need our support and commitment. On top of that, we need advocates on the ground to help people navigate an ever changing system, and understand what their options are for abortion coverage. It won’t be easy, and at times it will feel really frustrating, which is why we also have to remember to put the situation in perspective. We have a broken health care system that needs to be fixed and the ACA finally offers an opportunity to start fixing the system slowly but surely. Obviously this doesn’t mean that the way the ACA treats abortion is justified, but it’s important to remember that this is just the first step in a long process. I am cautiously optimistic that the goal of the ACA to improve access to insurance and healthcare, will lead to deeper conversations and ideas about what that means and looks like on the ground. That’s why we have to remember that this fight is far from over. We have to keep talking about why abortion is an essential part of healthcare, so that we can grab any opportunity there is in the future to improve access and coverage of abortion services.
In a shocking article recently published by the Associated Press, it was revealed that a Pennsylvania doctor has been charged with eight counts of murder in a case that screams for the public’s attention for many reasons. I will go ahead and warn you now, this is a horribly graphic and heartbreaking account, so please read with discretion. Now it is also important to note that this story is just coming to light, and so the full scope and validity of all of the allegations put forth in the article have yet to be fully substantiated. However, if true, this does highlight a number of points that need to be examined.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 69, made millions of dollars over 30 years, performing as many illegal, late-term abortions as he could, prosecutors said. State regulators ignored complaints about him and failed to inspect his clinic since 1993, but no charges were warranted against them given time limits and existing law, District Attorney Seth Williams said. Nine of Gosnell’s employees also were charged.
Gosnell “induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord,” Williams said.
What makes this story ever the more tragic, is that there were complaints lodged to the State that were not investigated for so long. In fact, if it had not been for complaints about drugs that stemmed from the clinic, investigators would seemingly never have looked into the complaints that were filed. How many of these victims could have been prevented had the State not only listened to the complaints being filed, but acknowledged the overwhelming number of women finding themselves in need of services they could not get anywhere else. So there are numerous implications that Pennsylvanian representatives need to address, and now!
This is a prime example of how the stigma attached to abortion, and the attacks on abortion which limit a woman’s access to safe procedures, gives rise to this kind of barbarism. If you thought that the ‘back-alley’ abortions were just a horror story of the past, then think again. Just now there are clinics like this one where women are subjected to opportunistic and conscienceless practitioners who do not have the patient’s care as a priority at all.
Bad news sucks. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to hear news about laws that deny access to abortion and make choice impossible.
When I read about the crusade to eliminate state insurance coverage for abortion care in states like North Carolina, Georgia, Colorado and Kansas it makes me angry. I wanted to scream when I found out that Stupak was adding anti-abortion language to the health care bill. He was trying to use abortion to stop health care from being passed which is just an asshole thing to do. The health care bill should not be about abortion.
The sad stories depress me and have made me cry. When I read about women who are forced to stay in abusive relationships because they are pregnant, have no options, and can’t afford to leave the situation, I am bewildered. No woman should ever have to remain pregnant if she doesn’t want to. But knowing that there are people out there who try day in and day out to block access to abortion inspires me to fight harder for choice.
1. A high-risk insurance pool to provide affordable coverage for uninsured people w/ medical problems.
2. Health insurance plans will be required to maintain dependent coverage for children until they turn 26 (after six months).
3. Insurance companies will be barred from putting lifetime dollar limits on coverage and from canceling policies except for fraud.
As I’m sure you all know, health care reform passed recently. The health care reform battle has triggered a lot of debates concerning abortion, and people everywhere have been sharing their opinions. To my dismay, some of these people, who call themselves pro-choice, have actually been supporting Stupak and his attempts to dump abortion coverage from health care reform. The question that I have for them is this; why?
Pro-Choice: The belief that all people should have the right to decide what is going to happen to his or her body, particularly as it pertains to pregnancy. I would hope that all pro-choicers would agree on this definition. The thing is, without access to abortion, the legality of the procedure is meaningless. Operation Rescue knows this, that’s why they’re trying to exterminate abortion providers. Stupak knows this, that’s why he tried to eliminate all federal funds for abortions during the health care reform battle. Anti-choicers know this piece of information, and they’re using it as a weapon to eliminate women’s rights. However, are pro-choicers aware of this fact?
I would say that, for the most part, pro-choicers are aware of the fact that, without access, the right to abortion means nothing. However, it seems as if a good number of self proclaimed pro-choicers either don’t realize this or don’t care. These “pro-choicers” say that they support the legality of abortion, but only if the woman has a good enough reason, or only if this is her first abortion, or only if she’s not using it as “birth control”. The types of “pro-choicers” that I’ll be writing about today are the ones who support the legality of abortion, but do not support the funding of abortion.
It’s been a few days now, but I still start pacing and speaking inappropriately loudly whenever health care reform and abortion coverage comes up. Regardless of what the actual effect of Obama’s executive order turns out to be, we’re still looking at the worst abortion restrictions in some 30 years. Hopes of repealing the terrible Hyde amendment anytime soon took a severe beating, and experts say the Nelson amendment is likely to do nearly as much damage to private insurance coverage for abortion as the Stupak amendment.
Last week Michelle Goldberg made the case that despite this awful rollback of reproductive rights, feminists should still support the bill. I pretty much agree. I’m basically just thankful I’m not one of the 41 pro-choice representatives who pledged not to restrict reproductive rights and then had to go back on their word or vote against a bill that, despite its shortcomings, will give 30 million people health insurance and be “the greatest expansion of the social safety net in a generation.”
But I’m still infuriated about how we got there. As Goldberg writes:
That the Republicans—who would never in a million years vote for Obama’s fantasy basketball pick let alone his administration’s most important piece of legislation—would engage in this kind of nihilism is, of course, so entirely unsurprising I can’t even be that outraged. Yelling about abortion was just good politics on their part—and if they don’t give a fuck about people’s access to health care in general, I suppose you can’t really blame them for not caring about women’s health.
I”m ticked off. I’m ticked off at pro-choice Americans.
Now before I go any further, I want to say that people who are actively involved in pro-choice activism year round, 24/7/365, need not read on. This is not about you.
To those of you who sit around and go “Roe v Wade is law, why should I speak out?” or “The Hyde amendment doesn’t bother me” - yeah, you keep reading.
My big question is- DO YOU CARE? Do you care about women? Do you care about children? Do you care about your sisters, your mother, your aunts, your daughters, yourself?
Inevitably, as pro-choice activists we face people who simply do not understand the need for a reproductive health movement. Roe is the law of the land, what’s the big deal? Nine times out of 10 my infuriated response dives straight into an explanation of Hyde, the erosion of protections in the states, and what it means now that we have legally lost the right to have an abortion for health reasons alone. But now I have an addendum, health care reform and the inevitable loss of private health insurance coverage of abortion.
Though I am ecstatic we are on our way to passing historic legislation that will help millions of Americans, I have never been more dedicated to promoting reproductive justice. The mainstream pro-choice movement has officially lost its way and we, as reproductive justice activists, need to fill their gap. I woke up this morning to an email from Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, four paragraphs in she merely notes that the Nelson amendment stands. If Planned Parenthood is going to settle, who is going to fight?
I understand we all want to improve health care for as many Americans as possible, and that unfortunately we do not have the political climate to get truly comprehensive health care to everyone, but we already compromised on abortion with the status quo. Why do we have to set ourselves back farther? Who does that help? Why are we again leaving behind poor women?