Looking Behind the Curtain of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act

By Erin Matson, NOW Action Vice President

HR3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, represents the worst this country has to offer. It would:

– Cement the Hyde Amendment, an illegitimate tack-on to an annual appropriations measure, into law. Under the Hyde Amendment federal funding for abortion care is barred in nearly every circumstance. The burdens of the Hyde Amendment are suffered disproportionately by poor women of color who participate in the Medicaid program.

– Subject millions of individuals, families and businesses to tax penalties if their private insurance coverage should happen to cover abortion care. Currently the overwhelming majority of private insurance providers cover abortion care.

Much attention has been paid to a provision of the bill that has since been dropped, which would have narrowed exceptions in the case of rape to what elite Republican men consider “rape” — disincluding withdrawn consent, women not fighting back to avoid further danger, date rapes, rapes occuring after a woman has become intoxicated or even drugged by her attacker.

It’s time to focus once again on the grievous injury of what the Hyde Amendment represents. Abortion is a legal medical procedure protected by the constitutional right to privacy; segregating access to this form of health care is discrimination against women. Let’s pause to consider that most of our country’s history has been punctuated by men making choices for women without their consent.

In the case of the Hyde Amendment, a minority religious belief opposed to all abortion rights has turned into a directive for Medicaid recipients; federal employees and their dependents; service members, retirees and their dependents; federal prisoners; Native Americans; Peace Corps volunteers and women in newly created high-risk health insurance pools. Once health insurance exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act go into effect, the Hyde Amendment will come to meddle with private transactions between individuals and insurance companies for the first time. The directive is always the same:

Now that you are pregnant, your body no longer belongs to you. It belongs to one religious viewpoint. Should you dare to examine your own physical, emotional and financial circumstances and acknowledge that you are not ready or able to have a child (or an additional child — let’s be clear that most women who have abortions do so to better take care of children they already have), please be prepared to sell your car, go without groceries or hope that an abortion fund can help.

This type of injustice is precisely what our country is not supposed to stand for. Segregation. Discrimination. Religion operating as public policy.

Today the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution will hold a hearing on HR3. Testifying in favor will be a representative of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has been wrongfully excused from nearly all of the lobbying and disclosure regulations that apply to everyone else, and the Family Research Council, which has been formally recognized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

It is certain these two groups will trope out the usual accusations of murder (which is, under no medical definition, what abortion care does). Recently Speaker John Boehner referred to HR3 as a “highest priority” and then acknowledged that a jobs package would come later. Also, a recent poll showed that abortion policy “barely registers” among voters who are looking to the new Congress to lead the country.

For a woman trying to do the best she can for herself and her family, it really does register. As an activist for abortion rights, I have seen the violence and extreme rhetoric employed by those in the minority who wish to end abortion rights for everybody. Last Saturday I was escorting patients outside a clinic in Southern New Jersey, and I was moved by one woman I walked with. She looked at the men who had squirted ketchup in the snow and were accusing her of belonging to the Gestapo through a bullhorn — really? she said. She was scared but firm. I have no idea what her situation was, and that’s her business. It’s certainly not anyone’s right to harass her or tell her what to do. We will not hear from her or any woman in this country who has had an abortion today.

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