Is Obama Pro-Choice?

By Erin Matson, NOW Action Vice President

I’ve never liked the term “pro-choice.” It seems to imply a set of politics that views abortion rights as something to protect so long as women who access unnamed “legal medical procedures” have unlimited time and unlimited personal funds — the kind of women who can linger over a crossword and second latte on a Tuesday afternoon.

Certainly the Obama administration did not linger when faced with a threatening letter from congressional Republicans suggesting that abortion care should be once again segregated from all other forms of health care, this time in newly created high-risk insurance pools.

Faster than a legislatively mandated waiting period, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius issued an exclusion of abortion coverage for women to be served by these pools — women living with conditions such as cancer, diabetes or anything that had actually required them to use health insurance before being made ineligible for it by the profit-driven, claim-denying private health insurance industrial complex — except in cases of rape, incest or risk of death.

Which raises a few questions: What does it mean to be pro-choice? And given that women have fewer rights to abortion than we did one year ago, many of those rights revoked with the approval or initiative of the executive branch, can we call President Obama a pro-choice president any longer?

Abortion rights supporters cheered when President Obama lifted the Global Gag Rule during his first week in office, allowing international family planning service providers to reinstate funding lost during the Bush era. But from that first week we appear to have slipped into a period of more restriction on abortion rights, not less.

Most recently, there was no legislative requirement to deny funding for abortion care to women who may be just one unsustainable pregnancy away from cancer remission or other serious health complication. The Obama administration is claiming that this policy meets the president’s stated desire for health insurance reform to neither expand nor scale back current restrictions on federal funding for abortion care. Except that once again the president did expand the current restrictions on federal funding for abortion care.

Is it pro-choice to block so-called “elective” abortion care from the most at-risk pool of women in this country? Is accepting and extending the Hyde Amendment pro-choice? Do you think President Obama deserves to be called a pro-choice president any longer?

Please share your comments below. We would like to incorporate thoughts from grassroots abortion-rights supporters in an upcoming live session with NOW President Terry O’Neill that will review President Obama’s record on abortion rights — watch for more details.

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