There aren't many lawmakers in Washington who have worked as hard as Rep. Jan Schakowsky to protect the reproductive rights of women. So it was with a lot of pain that the Northside Democrat ultimately swallowed a last-minute amendment to the historic health care reform bill ...
There aren't many lawmakers in Washington who have worked as hard as Rep. Jan Schakowsky to protect the reproductive rights of women. So it was with a lot of pain that the Northside Democrat ultimately swallowed a last-minute amendment to the historic health care reform bill limiting elective abortion coverage from both private and public insurers on the health insurance exchanges.
Women's groups across the nation, including Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women, said yesterday they would oppose any final health package that includes the abortion ban. Schakowsky is ready to join them. Greg Sargent has the scoop:
"If left as is the health care reform bill would be the largest repeal of anti-choice laws in nearly four decades,” Schakowsky said in a statement emailed my way. “I will continue to work with the Senate and the Conference Committee to make the bill acceptable, but cannot and will not support health care reform that blatantly discriminates against women."
Schakowsky is clearly mad about how the process evolved. Yesterday, on WTTW's Chicago Tonight, she explained her frustration with pro-lifers in Congress who moved the goal posts at the last minute. Watch an excerpt (in which she also pushes back against the GOP's efforts to restrict access to undocumented workers):
SCHAKOWSKY: Let me make it clear that we worked very closely with the anti-choice or pro-life members to craft legislation that maintains the status quo and says that not a penny of federal dollars or public dollars will go towards abortion. Turns out in that end, that that wasn't enough. And the amendment that passed says that even with private money, with your own money, middle class women couldn't purchase in the new health care exchange reproductive health services.
She's exactly right. For one, the House tri-committee bill does not threaten the Hyde Amendment, which forbids Medicaid from using any federal money to pay for an abortion procedure. And earlier this summer, the Democratic leadership agreed to a restrictive provision prohibiting women from using the public subsidies provided under the bill to buy private insurance plans that cover abortion. Even that deal, which would have allowed insurers to pay for the procedure (which usually costs between $300 and $400) using funds collected through private co-pays, wasn't enough to satisfy the anti-choice crowd.
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) says she's collected more than 40 signatures from fellow members who say they will not vote for a bill that comes out of conference committee with the Stupak language intact. Schakowsky is the first to state publicly that she'd sign the letter. Because her vote carries weight among liberals in Washington, expect more to stake out an equally firm position in the coming days.
UPDATE (11:57 AM): We should also note the reaction from pro-choice organizations to Rep. Mark Kirk's massive flip-flop on the Stupak amendment Saturday. In the past, Kirk has received a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood, National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, and the National Abortion Rights League. Here's a press release from NARAL, courtesy of the Capitol Fax:
It is obvious from his recent votes, including the indefensible vote for the Stupak-Pitts abortion ban amendment, that Mark Kirk would rather have the endorsement of Sarah Palin than the support of millions of pro-choice voters in Illinois,” Keenan said.
Keenan said Kirk’s vote is confirmation that he is engaged in a political calculation that betrays his professed standards of centrism and moderation, and therefore, he doesn’t deserve a promotion to the U.S. Senate.
Rep. Kirk is clearly abandoning the moderate positions that afforded him re-election to the House in favor of radically conservative views that he hopes will bolster support for his Senate campaign,” Keenan said. “His move to the radical right is not what we expect from a moderate member of Congress. Women’s freedom and privacy are at stake, and I am committed to working with NARAL Pro-Choice America’s 98,000 Illinois activists, members, and supporters to defeat Mark Kirk’s Senate campaign.”
UPDATE II (4:25 p.m.): Rep. Mike Quigley has joined Schakowsky in pledging to vote against a final bill that includes the Stupak language.