On Saturday, I attended a dinner put on by the Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington DC. You know when you read about some city council plastering the walls with the 10 Commandments, or a church that has gotten involved in an election (think Prop 8, think Question 1), and you know how you scratch your head and say to yourself, “They can’t do that, can they?” Well the good folks at A.U. are the ones who stand up for our rights and say, “No, they can’t.”
The importance of their work — and the importance of all of us standing up for this basic principle, which just happens to be in the First Amendment — was reinforced Saturday night. Less than a mile from where we sat eating our lovely “pecan-encrusted chicken” (just as aptly described by Dr Zaius’ as “chicken covered in nuts” ED: Here’s Dr. Z’s excellent write-up of the evening, complete with pictures!), Congress approved restrictions on a woman’s right to choose abortion that has not been seen in this country in decades. According to FireDogLake:
The Stupak amendment would effectively ban insurance companies from selling insurance plans that cover elective abortion on the individual and small group market. It would be one of the most far reaching national restriction placed on abortion in decades. It could also potential be used by insurance companies to allow them to legally discriminate against low income Americans.
You are certainly entitled to your personal opinions about abortion. (That’s also guaranteed by the First Amendment.) But the fact is, abortion is legal in this country and it is not up to the federal government to decide who gets to access this legal right. It is not the business of any religious group to lobby for or against providing access:
[The Stupak Amendment] emerged as the leading alternative, with the strong backing of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
It is simply outrageous that our Democratic majority Congress has passed such an amendment. It is a disgrace. Allison Kilkenny points out that 19 Democrats who voted for the Stupak Amendment (essentially voting “No” on women’s rights) also voted “Yes” on authorizing the U.S. to invade Iraq. She lists the 19 Congressmen (why yes, as a matter of fact, they are all men), and further notes:
All of these representatives are male, and with the exception of Sanford Bishop and Solomon Ortiz, they’re white, and ten are from southern states. None of them are poor. This is the kind of unrepresentative, elite club that gets to vote on sending our soldiers to possibly die after killing many innocent people in distance lands, and this Rich Boys’ Club also occasionally votes to steal rights from poor women.
What’s even sadder is that southern states have historically high rates of unplanned pregnancies, which makes the need for women’s health alternatives, including contraception (also not terribly popular in religious areas of the south) and abortion, all the more great. The Stupak amendment only ensures that poor, desperate girls will have to resort to terrible measures in order to terminate unwanted pregnancies.
Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.) has vowed to keep the Stupak Amendment out of any final bill:
Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.) said she has collected more than 40 signatures from House Democrats vowing to oppose any final bill that includes the amendment — enough to block passage.
“There’s going to be a firestorm here,” DeGette said. “Women are going to realize that a Democratic-controlled House has passed legislation that would prohibit women paying for abortions with their own funds. . . . We’re not going to let this into law.”
Call your Representative. Congress must be reminded to preserve a woman’s right to choose.