The Abortion Amendment: Could Obama Have Done More?

by Jonathan Cohn | November 9, 2009

At the American Prospect and Feministing, Ann Friedman reminds us that the significance of the Stupak amendment goes way beyond the funding of abortion services for people who happen to buy coverage through the new insurance exchanges:

On some level, I don't care about the nitty-gritty details of this amendment. This isn't just about how the money is allocated or what workarounds exist. This has me so incredibly infuriated because it further segregates abortion as something different, off the menu of regular health care. It is a huge backward step in the battle to convey -- not just politically, but to women in their everyday lives -- that reproductive health care is normal and necessary, and must be there if (or, more accurately, when) you need it.

This also sets apart women's rights from the Democratic/progressive/whatever agenda. As something expendable. But fundamental rights for women are not peripheral. They are core. And not just because of so-called "progressive" values. In a political sense, too: Seeing as how the Democratic party relies on women voters to win elections, you would think they would have come around to this no-brainer by now.

It's pretty cramped underneath this bus, what with 50 percent of Americans down here.

At the Daily Beast, Dana Goldstein asks the question many abortion rights advocates are asking: Did the administration do everything it could?

Pro-choice leaders disagree about whether more support from the White House could have strengthened their hand in the health-reform battle. In addition to the failed efforts to include comprehensive abortion coverage in the public plan, efforts to require private health insurance coverage of birth control also fell flat. In 1993, Hillary Clinton explicitly told Congress that she expected pregnancy and abortion to be treated in health reform like any other medical service. This year, though, Obama sent a different message, telling Katie Couric in July, “I think we also have a tradition of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care. Rather than wade into that issue at this point, I think that it’s appropriate for us to figure out how to just deliver on the cost savings, and not get distracted by the abortion debate at this station.”

A different tone from the White House might have helped pro-choice groups, [Judy] Waxman [of the National Women's Law Center] said. “We would like significant support from the administration on women exercising their constitutional rights,” she said.

But [Adam] Sonfield, of Guttmacher, maintains that Congress is the culprit: “Just because there are a lot more Democrats than Republicans doesn’t mean there are a lot more pro-choice people,” he said.

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