Connie Shultz: Reproductive Health Is Not A “Social Issue”


Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist and Pulitzer Prize winning author Connie Shulz takes on the language issue in the debate around reproductive health in her column this past weekend.

"Language matters, so let’s be clear: Women’s reproductive health is not a ‘social issue,’ writes Shulz.

Deciding whether to carry the red purse or the black bag to dinner
Saturday night? That’s a social issue. Wondering why your child wasn’t
invited to her classmate’s birthday party? That, too, is a social
issue.

But, "attempting to limit women’s access to legal and safe abortions? Not
even remotely a social issue. So let’s stop calling it that as we
debate the Stupak-Pitts amendment, which is the latest effort in
Congress to prohibit insurance coverage for abortion," she says.

The sooner we
reject this dismissive casting of a woman’s essential right, the sooner
elected officials will understand it’s not theirs for the tinkering.

She goes on to question the tax-exempt status of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops which continues to work to influence law and policy around women’s health and rights from the perspective of ultra-conservative Catholic ideology, rather than public health.

"Politicians fond of limiting women’s reproductive rights often say
they personally oppose abortion," writes Shulz.  "They cite their religion, as if this
carves out an exception in that whole separation-of-church-and-state
thing so they can use their faith to restrict the rights of every woman
in America."

In an interview with The Associated Press, Rep. Bart Stupak, a
Michigan Democrat, made it clear that the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops played a leading role in getting his amendment into the House
bill.

"The Catholic Church used their power — their clout, if you will —
to influence this issue. They had to. It’s a basic teaching of the
religion," Stupak said.

"My concern," writes Shulz, "echoes that of Rep. Lynne Woolsey, a California Democrat,
who wrote on Politico.com: "The IRS is less restrictive about church
involvement in efforts to influence legislation than it is about
involvement in campaigns and elections," she wrote. "Given the
political behavior of USCCB in this case, maybe it shouldn’t be.""

The IRS’ Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations clearly states that tax-exempt organizations may not lobby.

The guide reads: "In general, no organization, including a church,
may qualify for . . . [tax-exempt] status if a substantial part of its
activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as
lobbying). An organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much
lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status."

If pressuring members of Congress and issuing public statements
boasting about it don’t qualify as "too much lobbying," then this
columnist is merely dabbling in opinion writing and we should call it a
hobby.

And why, she asks, do elected officials "need to feel personally
comfortable with what a woman chooses to do with her body before they
allow her to do it."

When has a medical procedure exclusive to men
ever been held to a vote on a floor of the United States Congress?

Oh, wait, just remembered:

Never.

Even Some self-proclaimed progressives are reprimanding pro-choice women for insisting that the Stupak amendment must go.

They accuse us of digging in on "our issue" — interesting how some
insist they are pro-choice until it must actually mean something — at
the risk of derailing health care reform for millions of Americans.

We did not initiate the Stupak stunt. And when it comes to health
care, it has always been women who bear the load. We are the primary
caregivers for our children and our aging parents; we are most of the
nation’s nurses, medical assistants and home health care workers; and
we have raised billions of dollars for breast cancer research alone.

And yet, here we are, immersed in yet another congressional debate
over whether we should have affordable coverage for a medical condition
that only women face.

Don’t tell us women don’t care about health care.

Read the full article here.

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