Sunday, November 08, 2009

Health Care reform must not come at the expense of chipping away at abortion rights

I had come to terms with the fact that health care reform would not be all I wanted. I assumed that like previous major social reforms it would represent a step forward and the inadequacies would be remedied over time.

But unlike Social Security and Medicare, this legislation takes a step backward by mandating that plans included in the insurance exchange, including the public option, will not cover abortion. Some women who currently have abortion coverage would lose the right to it.

Major social reform has always been piecemeal. In order to get the votes to pass social security, FDR made a devil’s bargain with Southern Democrats to exclude domestic workers and share croppers, effectively excluding the majority of African-Americans. In many ways the New Deal was racist, but it established the principle that the elderly were entitled to financial support. In the 1950’s the laws were amended to ensure that the principle applied to all workers. (Those who had been excluded from social security or their descendants should have been compensated.)

Medicare was similarly a work in progress, with prescription drug coverage not included. Medicare established the principle that the elderly were entitled to health care, but it took forty years for prescription drug coverage to be included, and even then, the prescription drug coverage passed during the Bush administration was deeply flawed. The proposed health care reform should improve it somewhat.

I had expected similar gaps and inadequacies in the current legislation, but I didn’t expect an erosion of hard-fought rights.

Tomorrow I will be contacting my Senators. We’ve got to keep this erosion of abortion rights out of the Senate bill!