Monday, November 16, 2009

Dire Consequences

On the health reform front, according to an article by Jonathan Allen on, it looks as though Stupak, the anti-abortion amendment to the US House of Representatives health care bill, goes much, much further than originally supposed:
Stupak and his allies, including every House Republican, a quarter of the chamber’s Democrats and the Vatican, say that it simply extends an existing prohibition on federal funding for abortion — an annually renewed policy called the Hyde amendment — to the health care exchange that would be established for the uninsured under the health care bill making its way through Congress.

But lawmakers who support abortion rights contend that, if the Stupak amendment’s logic is extended to the $250 billion in tax breaks Americans get to buy coverage through employer-based plans, it could strip abortion coverage from tens of millions of women who already have it.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), co-chairwoman of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, said that the next step beyond Stupak for the anti-abortion movement will be to make sure that “if that federal wand has been waved over your insurance, then you don’t get to get abortion coverage.

Many Americans may not know that the money used for their employer-based health plans is untaxed, because it doesn’t show up on their paycheck and they don’t have to worry about it at tax time. But Congress’s bean-counting Joint Tax Committee calls the break “the largest tax subsidy” on the books and reports that it “represents by far the largest portion of total tax expenditures for health.”

This is how it works: The health benefits most Americans get at work are a form of income. But federal law excludes that income from taxation — and lets businesses write its cost off as an expense — providing an incentive to workers to buy health insurance and for employers to offer it as compensation.

For better or for worse, that tax-free foundation of the employer-based system props up the insurance industry. Without it, the government would be about a quarter of a trillion dollars richer each year — enough to pay for the House health care bill twice over the next decade.

More important for the abortion debate, Congress considers the income tax exclusion to be a massive “tax expenditure” — a subsidy — for individuals to buy insurance.
The effects the article discusses might be even farther reaching than that, involving nonprofits (including Planned Parenthood). Women in the US have steadily been losing access to safe, legal abortion. Cunning stealth attack or simply inadvertently sweeping in its consequences, it's obvious the Stupak Amendment would go even further in returning us to the actual, if not the legal, conditions of the pre-Roe vs. Wade days. Think that sounds alarmist? Here's another excerpt from Allen's article:
The combined data of a pair of studies conducted by the Guttmacher Institute and the Kaiser Family Foundation strongly suggest that most women who currently are covered by employer-based insurance plans have abortion coverage.

They would be in danger of losing abortion coverage if the Stupak principle is ever applied to the existing health care system, according to abortion-rights advocates.

“The next step after that will be to say that anybody who gets a plan purchased by an employer that gets tax relief can’t have abortion coverage,” DeGette said.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) sees the argument bleeding into federal subsidies in other policy arenas, according to the Iowa Independent.

“You can take this on down. You could just say that anybody that got a federal loan for housing could not get an abortion,” Harkin said. “You can take this and just keep going on and on and on with no end in sight.”

1 comment:

Foxessa said...

And yet, and yet, over and over, WOMEN are smugly informing me that myself and all the others who are speaking about this are -- Yes! -- we are overreacting!

And anyway poor women don't have insurance, and Planned Parenthood can take up the slack.

How can a woman even in this era be so entitled as to think reproductive services of ANY kind, much less abortion services, are easy to get anywhere, except in maybe NYC or San Francisco -- and even then, who can pay for them? Who can afford to even get there? What do they know of Planned Parenthood at all? In the state I grew up in there are two PP clinics, both in a city in the Red River Valley, which is on the border with Minnesota. Most of the state is west, north and south of that city.

Love, c.

Love, C.