How ironic to find myself and other advocates of choice announcing that we had no choice but to vote for an historic health insurance reform bill that expanded restrictions on government support for abortion services. “Choice” took on a whole new meaning today.
Good things will happen for women and men who have no health coverage as a result of this bill. Not as much as Democrats claim, but it will lead to important changes for women’s health and sense of security. It would have been difficult to deny women those benefits, when such a denial would not have yielded any advance on funding for abortion.
And so the question becomes: What next? For me the answer is simple and straightforward. I will not vote for or provide financial support for any candidate for public office until the Hyde Amendment is repealed. I will not contribute to any pro-choice or women’s organization that does not make the repeal of the Hyde Amendment its major political priority.
Some will say this is foolish or self-defeating. Pro-choice public officials do many good things. The only way we were able to pass healthcare reform was by getting a Democratic majority in Congress, and the only way we could get that majority was to include Democrats who oppose abortion. You could say that to sit out elections on the basis of the Hyde Amendment’s repeal is to ensure that the Democratic majority will be lost.
But I see a flaw in that argument. The President, who says he supports the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, and the Democratic Congress can save that majority by working vigorously to repeal the Hyde Amendment. The choice regarding who will control Congress is now in their hands. They can restore federal funding for abortion by repealing Hyde, stay in power and have the opportunity to continue to do good. Or they can wring their hands, maintaining they do not have the votes — by doing so, they will lose my support and I hope that of many others. They will also lose my respect and the sympathy I currently feel for the difficult choice they had to make this sad Sunday.
I invite other pro-choice supporters to join me and to publicly let the President and members of congress know of their resolve.
Frances Kissling is a visiting scholar at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the former president of Catholics for a Free Choice.
On March 21, 2010, the House voted to approve a healthcare bill intended to overhaul the system and guarantee Americans access to health insurance. The vote was 219 to 213. Problem solved? Hardly.