Monday, November 9, 2009

Don’t Tell me Abortion isn’t Basic health care.

On Halloween of this year, Robin Marty had an “abortion.” (RH Reality Check)

Robin Marty isn't a teenager who forgot to use a condom, or a young college woman who can't "deal" with having a child, the stereotypes many anti-choicers want you to believe. She was a soon to be second time mother, until she found out that the fetus she had been carrying for 12 weeks had died at just 8 weeks old. Faced with a potential medical emergency, Marty was given three options. The first, wait for a miscarriage, which her doctor said didn’t look to occur anytime soon, and, if left for too long, the fetus could cause a fatal infection. Her second option was to have a chemical abortion, which, because of how far along she was, would not be 'complete' and would would need to be followed up with a D&C (Dilation & Curettage). The third and final option was to have a D&C, the procedure that is referred to both medically and in political discourse as an abortion.

Marty went with the third option as it was in the best interest for her, her family, and any future children she may have (in addition to infection, waiting for a miscarriage could potentially leave Marty infertile.) Unlike many Americans, she was fortunate enough to have a private health insurance plan that would cover the procedure, although Marty would have to pay the maximum out-of-pocket expense of $1,500. Why does Marty's case matter to today's health care debate?

Before we get in to the politics, let's recap real quick to make sure we're on the same page. Robin Marty had an abortion to remove an already dead fetus from her uterus that, had it not been removed, could have caused infertility or a fatal infection. This procedure was necessary for not only her health, but her life and the well-being of her family.

Ok, so here we go.

Under the Stupak Amendment of the House Health Care Bill, Robin Marty could potentially be denied access to this procedure under her health insurance, regardless of whether or not it was under the public option or through a private insurance company; regardless of the potentially life-saving nature of the procedure. Currently, Marty's insurance doesn't have the option to opt-out of covering the procedure and therefore had to cover it; the Stupak Amendment would allow private insurers, like Marty's, to opt out of covering what is medically termed an abortion, leaving women like Robin Marty to cover the costs herself, or risk potentially fatal consequences.

Because abortion is such a broad term, there is no differentiation between the abortion of a live fetus versus one that has already died. So women like Robin Marty, whose body doesn’t quite pick up on the fact that it is no longer pregnant, would not be able to receive the life saving procedure unless they could afford the more than $1,500 in health care costs, assuming they would be able to find a provider.

Abortion is basic health care; in many cases, it is an instance of life and death for the mother. The abortions that are covered by insurance companies are rarely, if at all, elective. Those covered by insurance companies are only those performed in attempt to save the life or preserve the health of the mother.

Robyn Marty would have suffered serious health consequences and possible death had she not gotten this abortion; don't tell me that abortion isn't basic health insurance, Stupak. Instead, tell me why, under this “comprehensive” health care bill that is attempting to bring basic health care to 96 million + Americans, women still must be denied? A health care bill that does not cover basic, reproductive health care for women does not sound "comprehensive" to me.

photo credit: opendemocracy from Flickr


tim said...

The Stupak Amendment doesn't take away the "rights" of women, it only recognizes the rights of the unborn.

Bonnie said...

I have to disagree with the comment before me from tim, and I also want to note that I don't appreciate talking about women's rights in quotation marks, as though they are not something that we actually deserve.

To address the actual post though, I'm not sure if I agree that this woman's abortion wouldn't have been covered under the Stupak amendment. As a pro-choice feminist, I obviously am opposed to the amendment and am absolutely insulted that it is attached to a bill purporting to increase access to health care.

However, my understanding of the Stupak amendment is that it would allow for private insurance companies to cover and provide for abortions in situations like the one you describe - where the health of the mother is at risk. As you said, if the woman here didn't get an abortion, she could have gotten a fatal infection, and as long as that was a real and legitimate threat, it is my understanding that the Stupak amendment would still allow insurers to cover it.

Obviously I'm not trying to defend the amendment - I think it is completely absurd and I hope that it gets stripped from the bill, either before or after passage. But I do think its important to understand exactly what the amendment stipulates so that we can fight it properly.

Maggie S said...

Bonnie, thank you for your comment! I looked into it and rewrote a portion of the blog to be a little more explanatory and clear. The Stupak Amendment would let insurance providers opt-out of covering this procedure, even if it is a necessary procedure as in the case of Robin Marty; you're right, it's not a full out ban on abortion.

Bonnie said...

Thanks for the explanation Maggie! I didn't realize that insurers could opt out even in life-threatening situations, though - that is WILD. Great post!