If you think Democrats are incapable of coordination, let me forward you my email inbox for today. In it, you will find no less than 18 Democratic members of Congress sending the exact same message – in list-building petitions and recaps of multiple press conferences and advisories of additional press conferences and guidance for reporters and press aides – about attacks on women’s health by the House GOP.
This is a no-brainer, and has the benefit of being true. The House GOP is planning multiple pieces of legislation that would restrict women’s health in a series of ways. First you have the “No Taxpayer Funds for Abortion Act,” HR 3, which would in carrying the Hyde Amendment into statutory law expand its restrictions to essentially end the possibility of insurance coverage for the legal medical procedure of abortion. Because small business subsidies and exchanges and employer incentives for insurance all come from the federal treasury, it would be impossible for an insurer to deliver reproductive choice coverage. Despite changing the language on “forcible rape,” under HR 3, states would actually not be required to provide abortions to Medicaid subscribers in the event of rape, incest, or the life of the mother. In a separate bill, HR 358, which some have called the “Let them Die” Act, hospitals would be relieved of the requirement to provide emergency care on pregnant women who need life-saving treatment, overriding the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. A third bill, HR 217, would restrict Title X to end all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides many essential health services other than abortions with that funding.
And so off they go in the House and Senate. House Judiciary Committee Democrats and the Pro-Choice Caucus revealed their outrage in briefings. Members of the Senate joined them. Richard Blumenthal became the first man to write an email for EMILYs List on the issue. Kirsten Gillibrand said that “Republicans claim that they want to keep government out of people’s lives, but they insist on asserting their authority in the lives of women.” Barbara Boxer adds, “We want the women and families of America to know that we will continue to defend women’s health and, with a bipartisan effort, we will stop an agenda that would do them harm.” Frank Lautenberg, with particular aplomb, added, “Once again, we are seeing a male-o-garchy trying to turn the clock back on women’s health.” Al Franken concluded “This is simply unacceptable.”
Strong words from all of them, in the House and the Senate. They all come from people who voted in (or in Blumenthal’s case, supported) the greatest restrictions on the women’s right to choose since the Hyde Amendment, right in the health care law. Ultimately, the bill includes the Nelson Amendment, which forces the segregation of funds and allows a state opt-out, to exclude the exchanges providing abortion coverage on their exchanges. This state-based version of the Stupak Amendment has already played out in several states, so everyone in the individual market will have no opportunity at insurance covering abortion services. In addition, the bill had as a side agreement an executive order reaffirming Hyde, which while light on content but heavy on the message that it was OK to negotiate health care on the backs of women. Down the road, the Administration applied the abortion coverage ban to high-risk pools, a signal that they could do the same to the exchanges they end up running. They did this even though that was not required by the executive order, which proved far less “worthless” than at first surmised.
I appreciate House and Senate Democrats rallying for women’s health, but their first stab at this does not suggest they would be willing to hold out completely. And HR 3 would represent a massive rollback of women’s rights. Clearly the President is willing to sign things that chip away at the armor of the right to choose. Democrats are ultimately willing to vote for them.
Forgive me if I don’t report on the press briefings. Let’s see action.