The U.S. Senate opened floor debate on health care reform legislation Nov. 30 with Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., reminding his colleagues that generations of the American people have called on lawmakers to "fix this broken system. We're now closer than ever to getting it done."
Even as the debate heated up, the movement for women's equality scheduled a "Day of Action" on Capitol Hill Wednesday Dec. 2 to demand that the Senate reject the Stupak-Pitts amendment that imposes sweeping limits on women's right to an abortion. The poison-pill rider was approved by the House when it passed its version of health care reform 220-215 on Nov. 7.
The National Organization for Women, chief sponsor of the Capitol Hill lobby and rally, warned, "Make no mistake. The Affordable Health Care for America Act as adopted with the Stupak-Pitts Amendment ... is the greatest threat to women's fundamental right to abortion since it was recognized under the Constitution with Roe v. Wade. Abortion is health care. It is not acceptable to achieve health care by pushing women into the back alleys to die."
An analysis posted on the NOW web site points out that the Senate version "does not have the same vicious right-wing vitriol of the Stupak Coathanger Amendment." Coat hangers used in back-alley abortions caused the death of many women and have been long a symbol of the death toll before the Supreme Court legalized abortions in 1973.
The analysis explains that the senators stripped out the Stupak-Pitts amendment and substituted the Capp amendment which "allows both public and private plans to offer abortion coverage." Unlike Stupak-Pitts, "it allows consumers to use government subsidies to purchase insurance that covers abortions but requires that their premiums, and not federal funds, pay for the actual procedure."
The Capp amendment includes a "conscience clause" saying that health care providers cannot be "discriminated against because of a willingness or unwillingness ... to provide, pay for, provide coverage of or refer for abortions."
The author of the analysis comments, "This move is a much better option."
Many see the hidden hand of the insurance lobby in the Stupak-Pitts amendment, a cunning "poison pill" to split the coalition for health care reform and a robust federally-funded public option.