Sunday, March 28, 2010

Abortion and the Health Reform Bill

The advocates of a woman’s legal right to abortion under the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision were enthusiastic supporters of the Democratic Health Care Reform Bill. But they were appalled at the deal President Obama made with 13 US Representatives to obtain their votes in exchange for an Executive Order that weakens the rights of women for legal abortions.

With little fanfare, with no glaring lights or TV cameras, no East Room speeches, without a photo or a handshake, President Obama did not commemorate this Executive Order with twenty signing pens. The president of NOW, the National Organization of Women, said, “We wished he would storm the ramparts for every one of our issues. It really pains me to conclude that on balance this law is not good for women. It’s health reform has been achieved on the backs of women and at the expense of women.” Other leaders made similar statements.

The new law requires women to make premium payments on most of their coverage and a second, far smaller one, for abortion coverage. Advocates fear that the executive order will make it more difficult to achieve elimination of the Hyde Amendment that prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion. Hyde ought to be repealed because it penalizes women for a completely legal medical procedure – with the approval of President Obama.

There is another issue affected by Obama's Executive Order. In spite of the fact that abortion is legal in all three trimesters under clearly spelled out conditions and regulations, there is a national campaign of legal activities to discourage and intimidate women, doctors, nurses, hospitals, clinics, etc. from exercising their rights under the law. The systematic harassment sometimes violates laws when the “educational” efforts become threats and when doctors are murdered.

This anti-abortion campaign has been remarkably effective in making it difficult and expensive for women to exercise their right to abortion. In many communities, no doctors or hospitals will perform this service. Some women must travel significant distances to other cities and states, find a new doctor, bring along a friend or relative, make hospital arrangements, all at significant expense. Abortion services are not available in 87% of the counties of the US.

In the debate before the House of Representatives, virtually every anti-abortion speaker emphasized the sanctity of human life. Who could disagree with that principle and its application to the life and death of a child? But humanitarian and religious principles require that this principle be applied to all human activity: the life and health of the mother, the taking of life by the government by capital punishment, the existence of nuclear weapons that could eliminate all human life on planet Earth. President Obama's political arrangement on abortion has not helped to clarify these difficult issues and has encouraged the public campaign to deny legal rights to American women


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