This Again? House Votes to “Protect Life,” Kill Women

In another sure sign that Congress has neither a plan for, nor the intention of, addressing America’s massive jobs crisis, the U.S. House of Representatives has voted 248-173 to approve HR 358–or what we like to call the “Protect Life by Letting Women Die Act.” That’s right, in the middle of the highest unemployment in decades, the conservative-dominated House is more interested in making sure women don’t have access to life-saving medical care than it is in creating jobs.

Authored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), HR 358 would offer hospitals legal protection for refusing to perform emergency abortions even when the life of the mother is at stake. It would also prevent millions of women from purchasing insurance that covers abortions, or force them to give up insurance they already have that does so, and it would broaden loopholes that allow insurance companies to refuse to cover contraceptives.

The issue dates back to the House’s Stupak-Pitts amendment (co-sponsored by former Rep. Bart Stupak [R-Mich.] ), which attempted to prohibit both public and private health insurance plans participating in insurance exchanges from offering abortion coverage. The “Nelson Compromise,” brokered by Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), that made its way into the final Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, allows patients to pay separately for abortion coverage from private plans offered through state exchanges, but also allows states to opt-out by passing laws that prohibit their exchanges from providing such plans.

Even that is not enough for anti-abortion radicals in Congress. Despite calls from top Republicans to make the economy the top issue this fall, aides told Roll Call that the 2010 Pledge to America that helped them retake the House required them to take up culture-war issues or be “hit with a bunch of bad stories.” HR 358 is similar to HR 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, that passed the House in May but was blocked by the Senate. This bill, too, is unlikely to be taken up there. If it is and if it passes, the Obama administration has promised a veto:

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 358 because, as previously stated in the Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 3, the legislation intrudes on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care and unnecessarily restricts the private insurance choices that women and their families have today.

Unfortunately, this didn’t stop the House from wasting time that could be spent on, you know, actually solving problems. I guess political theater is just so much more important.

The measure is part of an effort to both strengthen the Hyde Amendment, which already prohibits taxpayer dollars being spent on abortion, and to weaken the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. H.R. 358 goes even further than Stupak-Pitts by prohibiting federal funds from being used even to supplement the purchase of a plan that covers abortion–even when the individual is paying for that part herself through carefully segregated payments. Under H.R. 358, many plans would probably cease to offer abortion coverage at all.

The provision of the amendment that frees hospitals that refuse to perform emergency abortions from even the legal obligation of stabilizing and transferring individuals also creates a direct conflict with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which since 1986 has required them to do so. This “conscience clause” would also overturn the recent Health and Human Services Department decision that requires contraception be covered by insurance at no additional cost.

The bill may never become law, but its supporters got their message out. In their zeal to restrict choice, some politicians are ready to let women die.

Photo from Flickr user Jose Goulao under Creative Commons 2.0.


  1. Belle of Acadie says:

    That is scary!

  2. It is 2011, & young American women seem still surprised that they are involved in a

    religious ideological/conceptual/ontological war against their sex, waged for many

    thousands of years by a patriarchal agenda. Yet, on the just completed MS Readers

    Choice List of the Top 100 Non-Fiction Feminist Books (published just above this

    article), there is no book by Mary Daly, nor does my 1987 (still in print) The Great

    Cosmic Mother appear; it’s a dumb title, not my title, but the text like all of Daly’s work, is a serious indictment of patriarchal religion & its ravages among Western women. Why the disappearance of these books & similar others? They might offend a Christian, Jewish or Muslim college student? Because the academic world &

    what is left of Women’s Studies are restrained by reformist conformity to established institutions? Because no one questions Why? & How? anymore, but all are simply left adrift to survive on a social battlefield where females are consigned to euphemism & patriarchal institutions have all the intellectually manipulative weapons?? Time to ask yourselves, young American women, just why & how the gains of the 60s & 70s have been lost despite so many apparent female ‘successes.’ After occupying Wall St., consider reoccupying your innate Amazonian minds. There is deep primary Power there: USE IT !!!

  3. Anne Wilson says:

    As a Canadian I have become complacent and a little bit smug and self satisfied about abortion rights in Canada. Afterall, Planned Parenthood began just down the street from me by our local hero Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw. I got my first birth control prescription in her office in the 1970s. Abortion and birth control are both paid for by government health care for all Canadian women and underaged women do not require parental consent. But we also have had a new kind of neoconservative agenda blowing wind up our skirts, sniffing about like dogs in heat.

    Our Prime Minister is backed by a small group of “Reformers” who are very similar to your Tea Party. This year in our Parliament (similar to congress) 30 private members have put forward bills to be voted on. One bill is to condemn Planned Parenthood. One is to protect hate speech and hate speakers.

    Recently our Neo Conservative governemtn passed a ‘Maternal and Child” bill to provid assisstant to women and children in Africa but it would not provide money for abortions for African women, not even rape victims or women with HIV/Aids. I am complacent no more.

    Luckily, our opposing voice in government is packed with shameless left wing advocates so the private members bills have no hope of passing. 60% of Canadians are still proud to call ourselves liberals or social democrats. In your country “Liberal” is used as a insult. It is difficult to reclaim and promote feminist values without proudly claiming liberal values. It amazes me that the Tea party is so proud to stand up and proclaim its values of control and greed and yet liberal Americans remain shamed and voiceless. The rest of the G20 is proud to have a social democracy and liberal vlaues. We are proud to have universal medical care. We are proud to have excellent government employment insurance, and disability insurance. We are proud to pay taxes for the health of our neighbours.

    If your want to real abortion rights, be proud of your liberal values. Use the word conservative like its an insult.

    A proud liberal feminist

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