Monday, November 09, 2009

The Coathanger Amendment

The 2009 Health Care Reform Bill recently passed by Congress contained a rather interesting rider courtesy of Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak. Rep. Stupak attached and successfully passed an amendment to the bill which bars any form of federal funding for abortion through the health care funds. It would not only bar direct funding for abortion, but also any affordability payment to an insurance company that covers abortion.

My Gut Reaction: The DailyKos was right when they termed this amendment "The Coathanger Amendment."

Analysis: This amendment seeks to limit indirectly the rights of women to obtain abortion, and not simply those who apply to the government for assistance. By denying insurance companies eligibility for affordability funds if they cover abortion, essentially creating an incentive not to cover it.

The potential stakes of this issue become apparent when one reads this account of a woman who had to have an abortion twelve weeks into her pregnancy after the fetus died. Had the fetus not been aborted, she would have faced a serious risk of infection or sepsis. Luckily, her insurance company covered abortion. That might not be the case if the government starts providing incentives for companies to not cover abortion.

What is particularly galling about this legislation is that religious leaders, particularly from the Roman Catholic Church, seem to have played a major role in drafting the amendment. The Suburban Guerilla blog reports that the congressmen who drafted the amendment were in talks with representatives of the Catholic Church. (Yet another reason to revoke the Church's tax exempt status.)

Luckily, there is a movement fighting against this amendment. Forty House Democrats have already pledged to vote against any final bill that contains the amendment. Furthermore, there is an online movement to create a new meaning for the word "Stupak," referring to sepsis generated by back alley abortion. You can vote for this new meaning on the Urban Dictionary by clicking here. You may also wish to do searches on Yahoo! under "sepsis stupak" in an effort to get it on their top ten searches list.

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