Advocates for reproductive justice were basically slapped in the face with the introduction of H.R. 3 or the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act." This bill, introduced by anti-choice Congressman Chris Smith on January 20, 2011, would make the restrictions of the Hyde amendment permanent. Specifically, these restrictions deny taxpayer subsidies for abortion, except in the cases of rape, incest, and when the pregnancy endangers the mother's life. In addition to finalizing these restrictions, H.R. 3 would prevent self-insured and employer-based consumers from receiving tax breaks if they buy insurance plans that include coverage for abortion.
H.R. 3 has received countless criticisms, not only for its restrictions but for its language, which specifies that "rape" must be of a forcible nature in order to be covered by public funding. This language, not to mention the entire bill, is absolutely preposterous in the opinions of many. In only covering "forcible rape," this bill has undermined the violation that occurs to a woman's dignity and mental stability with all forms of rape (including date rape, incest, and work-based harassment). Rape is rape, and each occurrence is bound by a lack of consent. It should not be redefined in an attempt to advance partisan efforts.
Having received numerous attacks from women's groups, House Republicans have recently decided to remove the incredibly offensive language from the bill. Representative Chris Smith has commented that the word "forcible" will be dropped from the bill and replaced with the original language from the Hyde amendment, leaving the bill to cover all forms of rape. The removal of this language is only a minuscule victory for reproductive justice advocates compared with the whirlwind of current events during the abortion debate, but at least it ensures that more women are covered.
H.R. 3 is definitely not alone in its restrictive nature. On the same day that H.R. 3 was introduced, Representative Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania introduced the erroneously named, "Protect Life Act," or H.R. 358. On February 3, 2011, Representative Pitts introduced a new provision to the bill that would allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortion services even if a woman is at risk of dying if she does not receive them. Unfortunately, it seems like there is no limit to the kinds of restrictions that will be introduced during this controversial time.
Right now, states are in the process of drafting their insurance exchanges that, according to the health care reform package, are to be implemented in 2014, and abortion-restricting bills are popping up in many of them. In particular, Pennsylvania has seen many abortion-restricting bills after the controversy surrounding Dr. Gosnell, who was arrested for performing late-term abortions in a horrendous manner. This case has been riling up anti-choice legislators to introduce more bans, but what Gosnell did only strengthens the argument that women need greater access to abortion services. It is tragic that women in their sixth, seventh, and eight months of pregnancy received abortions by Dr. Gosnell, but do you think they would have waited so long if they could have received an abortion shortly after conceiving? The answer is most likely no.
Regardless of where we stand on the moral issue of abortion, we need to realize that American women need access. Let individuals make the decision themselves of whether or not they will receive an abortion. The government--federal or state--does not have the authority to intervene during this decision making process. But by making abortion unavailable to countless women, lawmakers seem to be trying to convince women that abortion should be out of the question. Without insurance coverage, a woman may unable to afford an abortion, and she may result to drastic measures if she isn't free to make the decision about what's right for her and her family.