Monday, December 7, 2009

Op-Ed: Stupak-Pitts abortion amendment an attack on women's rights

By Claire Macomson, University of North Carolina - Greensboro

As many of you know, the health care debate has been raging on for months. Last month, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would radically change health care in this country. I am not here to debate the pros and cons of the public option or whether or not the government is going to let grandma die. I am here to talk specifically about the Stupak-Pitts Amendment and its attack on women.

Currently, federal funds are banned for abortion, exceptions allowed, under the Hyde Amendment, and most private insurers cover abortion. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment will prohibit the use of federal funds for abortions for women in the public option, and will prevent private insurers from covering abortions for women with government subsidies under the proposed exchange system. Its exceptions include rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in jeopardy. It also specifically allows for supplemental abortion insurance to be bought.

This is an attack on women. Supporters of this amendment will say that their tax money should not go to support something they morally oppose. All Americans are forced to pay for many things they morally oppose; the wars, the death penalty, public schools, the welfare system, abstinence-only sex education, various government programs - the list goes on for both sides of the debate. That is not a good enough excuse. No excuse is good enough when women's lives are on the line.

People will bring up that the amendment allows for abortions to protect the mother's life, and in instances of rape and incest. That is a joke. Rules like these are arbitrary. Look at the way we treat rape victims in our society: with scorn and distrust. We blame them for the violent and unacceptable acts against them. Who decides if a pregnant woman has been raped, in time for her to get a timely abortion?

Women do not have the time the courts will take making their decisions about our lives. Who decides what constitutes a threat to a mother's life and well-being? What happens to a mother who has to give birth to a baby she knows developed without a brain? Wouldn't it be better for her and her family to have the option of privately terminating this pregnancy, rather than go through the mental anguish of giving birth to a dead baby? What woman deserves to have her life placed in jeopardy by our bureaucratic government? It's a joke, and not a funny one at that.

Trying to limit abortions will not decrease the number being performed. Women have always gotten them when they needed them, whether it was legal or not. Abortion has been a necessary part of society since ancient times; ask anyone studying the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment will only serve to force more and more women into back-alley procedures because they cannot afford to pay in full for a proper procedure. Back alley abortions still exist today, because some women cannot afford the cost. Do we really need more coat hanger deaths on our public conscience?

All women deserve equal access to abortion. Restricting it only makes it more dangerous. It will just lead to more deaths and complications. I urge you to write or call your senators and urge them to not support the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to the health care bill. Because women deserve better than a coat hanger, and because women deserve better than to be pawns whose rights can be bartered away.

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