Speaking of Women's Rights: Score: Religious Bigots and Indifferent Congress -- 1. Women's Needs and Rights -- 0.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Religious Bigots and Indifferent Congress -- 1.
Women's Needs and Rights -- 0.

Remember that scene in the first Harry Potter book and movie, where Ron Weasley directs a chess game with Harry and Hermione taking the place of chess pieces so Harry can proceed to the next obstacle in recovering the Sorcerer’s Stone? Well, that’s how I – and hundreds of thousands of women – feel in the health care debate right now. Except my side isn’t winning the game.

Nope – we’re just pawns, our health care needs and rights at the mercy of a) the Catholic Conference of Bishops; b) members of Congress, who have the best health care coverage in the country and a seeming indifference to the life realities of the rest of us; c) so-called “blue dog” Democrats, who couldn’t care less about the well-being of the people as long as their importance is honored; d) the wimpy Republicans who have forgotten what it means to keep government out of people’s lives – or that it was ever a central tenet of their party; e) President Obama, who needs to stand up for the rights of all women – including his daughters.

I want health care reform just as deeply and passionately as you do. But I also want, and I deserve, to be treated equally and fairly. The bill passed by the House of Representatives yesterday not only freezes into law the horrific Hyde Amendment prohibiting government from providing funds for abortion, it goes further, limiting coverage even for women paying for their abortion without government subsidies. That’s right, folks: according to The Washington Post, if this bill becomes law, thousands of women won’t be able to use their own money to get health care they are constitutionally entitled to obtain.

The Catholic Conference (which to its credit has long pushed for universal health care) won the day in the House yesterday. “We think that providing health care is itself a pro-life thing, and we think that, by and large, providing better health coverage to women could reduce abortions,” said Richard M. Doerflinger, a spokesman for the anti-abortion division of the Catholic Conference. (Just curious: why do they label it the ‘anti-abortion division of the Conference’? Isn’t that redundant?)

“But we don’t make these decisions statistically, and to get to that good we cannot do something seriously evil.”

Right back atcha, Mr. Doerflinger: what you have done is impose your religious views on me, my nieces, cousins and hundreds of thousands of women. And in our constitutional system, which is supposed to guarantee freedom of and freedom from religion, that’s another kind of evil.

P.S. Don’t be thinking it’s just health care. Good news from last week: the Senate lifted most of the long-standing restrictions on use of non-federal funds for legal services activities. Bad news: it specifically left in place restrictions on assisting clients with legal issues related to abortion.