Speaking of Women's Rights: The Thorn On the Road To Health Care Reform

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Thorn On the Road To Health Care Reform

Kevin Dietsch / UPI / Landov

In the wake of President Obama’s address to Congress on the need for change in our health care system, analysis of his speech has dominated the web. Google “Obama health care speech” and you will find 47,600,000 results. It seems that everyone has a view on some aspect of the proposed legislation to extend health care to all Americans.

One of the more contentious pieces of the health care reform puzzle is the issue of abortion. Though not explicitly mentioned in any proposed legislation, those on both sides of the abortion debate have been attempting to uncover just what will happen if the bill passes. Will abortion be funded in a public option plan? Will it be covered by insurance companies who are receiving federal funds? Will women whose insurance companies currently cover abortion – about 86% according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute - suddenly find themselves without coverage that they had before (therefore breaking Obama’s promise that those who are happy with their insurance coverage will get to keep it)?

This is what Obama had to say about the issue on Wednesday night: "One more misunderstanding I want to clear up -- under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place." Abortion foes called Obama’s words a “political hoax,” and held that his assertion that abortion would be paid for out of patient premiums and not government funding “a distinction without a difference.” At the same time, the pro-choice community takes the wording of the house bill to mean a continuation of the Hyde Amendment, which forbids that Medicaid pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the mother’s life. With politicians trying to tip toe around this thorny issue, it seems to be nearly impossible to pin down exactly how a government-run health care plan would treat abortion.

Apparently the swirling tides of confusion around this debate have gotten to some folks: Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) recently baffled the pro-choice community by co-opting their language in an effort to voice her opposition to a government-run health care system. "That's why people need to continue to go to the town halls, continue to melt the phone lines of their liberal members of Congress," said Bachmann, "and let them know, under no certain circumstances will I give the government control over my body and my health care decisions."