Yesterday, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) took her Democratic colleague Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE)–and much of the Republican party and the anti-choice movement–"to school."
Calling health reform that offers truly universal access both "pro-life," and "whole-life," Mikulski, by turns passionate and sardonic, made one of the most effective speeches yet against Nelson’s efforts to pass a "Stupak" amendment in the Senate’s version of the health reform bill.
She called efforts to limit women’s ability to buy insurance policies that cover abortion care both "insulting" and "humiliating," and invoked Nathaniel Hawthorne’s A Scarlet Letter in pointing to the discrimination and stigma the Stupak and Nelson amendments would perpetuate against women.
"I truly believe that health care reform is the most important social justice vote that we will cast in this decade," said Mikulski.
Why? Because we are talking about providing universal access to health care, which I believe is a basic human right and should be a fundamental American right. That’s why health reform is so important.
"I consider these principles to be ‘pro-life,’" said Mikulski, "and ‘whole life.’"
I think the health care bill we are debating is as pro-life as you can be, because what other thing helps maintain, protect, save or deal with impaired life than providing universal access to…health care?
Taking a page from ultra-conservative evangelical pastor Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Life, which, Mikulski noted, "talks not about ‘pro-life’ but ‘whole-life’ principles," she continued:
[B]eing able to see a doctor or an appropriate health care professional saves lives and I view this vote on health care reform as pro-life or whole life as anyone can cast.
Mikulski underscored the "pro-life" values inherent in preventive care:
I believe that supporting screening for diabetes is pro-life, cervical cancer is prolife.
But most of all, she continued:
If you want people to have healthy pregnancies, healthy childbirth, healthy babies, they need access to health care, so that’s why i say that voting for universal access to health care is as pro-life as you can be.
Mikulski then turned to the issue of the Nelson Amendment:
[Therefore] making this debate about abortion, I believe, is misguided and wrong. First of all, in the bill we already deal with this. The [current bill] does not seek to change the underlying premise of the Hyde Amendment…and in fact the pending bill goes even further than Hyde.
The current bill:
"says loudly, clearly and consistently," Mikulski underscored:
that no federal funds can be used to pay for the coverage of abortion. And it does it by separating out funds so that no public money from federal credits or subsidies would be used for abortions.
Language in the current Senate bill, based on the Capps amendment in the original House health care bill this summer, ensures that health care plans cannot be required to cover abortion; underscores that plans can choose to cover or not cover it; and reiterates, in Mikulski’s words, "the long-standing practicve of a strong conscience clause for…indivdiual providers or institutions."
Mikulsi then took on the Nelson amendment:
Let’s go to Nelson, which is really a Senate versin of Stupak. I believe it is unnecessary. I believe it is unneeded. And I believe that it’s uncalled for. And it goes further than Hyde because it prohibits the public option from covering abortino. It prohibits individuals receiving federal insurance subsidies from purchasing a plan that covers abortion…even if you use your own money.
The amendment also, continued Mikulski, "allows a woman to purchase an abortion rider."
Oh boy. is this supposed to be a big deal? Is this supposed to be the kind of thing that is supposed to make us happy?
What an insulting, humiliating thing to say: If you want an abortion go buy a rider. I think it demonizes women. Why don’t you just go into the workplace and paint a Scarlet letter on your forehead? Hawthorne still lives in the Nelson Amendment.
Pointing out that no woman "plans" to have an unplanned pregnancy or an abortion, Mikulski went on to ask:
How about [we] have men buy an abortion rider for the women they get pregnant?
Hmmmmm…it’s an idea to explore…requiring all men to buy abortion riders in case they cause an unintended pregnancy.
How about it?