Health Care Bill: What It Means for Women

Jeanne Sager
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Flickr: Photo by The White House
The health care reform bill that passed the House late yesterday isn't a law yet, but it's cleared the bulk of its major hurdles. And that includes one that leaves women out in the cold.

President Barack Obama said Sunday "We rose above the weight of our politics," in his celebration of the House passing a Senate version of the bill.

But the New York Times reports Obama himself spent some time on the phone with Congressman Bart Stupak, the representative who has thrown himself into fighting against access to abortions for American women. So what did the Prez and Mr. Stupak chat about?

You guessed it -- the politically-charged abortion issue. And our pro-choice president gave way like a toddler offered a lollipop.

The bill that will guarantee health coverage for 95 percent of Americans will deny any woman federal financial assistance to seek an abortion. It also makes explicit the separation of private monies women use to buy health plans that will cover an abortion from federal subsidies.

But perhaps the biggest concession Obama made was agreeing to new laws that would legally protect hospitals, doctors and other health care providers from prosecution if they object to providing abortions as a matter of conscience.

In other words -- while a hospital can't traditionally turn you away because of lack of finances, they can turn you away if you lack finances and want an abortion. Even though you ostensibly have as much of a right to choose an abortion as you do to choose to have your gallbladder out. At least according to Roe v. Wade.

Stupak was forced to concede on his request that the government also ban private insurers from funding abortion coverage. But as the headline in the Detroit Free Press today pointed out, Stupak bends, but [he] gets his way.

Is that rising above our politics?

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