In the Dog Days of Summer, Obama Delivers a Death Blow to Vulnerable Women


It’s a classic Friday political number: Release bad news in the hopes that no-one is paying attention.

So, last Friday, the last possible Friday in July no less, the Friday two days before the “dog days of August,” what was the news?

Well, the news is that the President has directed his Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, to issue a regulation for healthcare reform’s high-risk insurance pools, a regulation deathly to American women.

Here’s Cecile Richards, CEO of Planned Parenthood, responding to the President’s decision:

So who does this regulation affect? The high-risk insurance
pools are being created for some of the most medically
vulnerable women in the country — those with pre-existing
conditions such as breast and ovarian cancer, AIDS, diabetes
and other conditions that may make pregnancy extraordinarily
dangerous.

The HHS regulations mean that women won’t be allowed to obtain
abortion coverage through the new high-risk insurance pools
beyond limited cases (rape, incest, endangering the life of the
woman). They won’t even be given the option to pay for that
coverage with their own money. We can’t let this decision stand.

The final health care reform bill included extensive
restrictions on using federal funds to pay for abortion
coverage, but this new ban goes beyond what it is in the law.
Quite simply, HHS has chosen to place a new burden on women who
are ill and extremely vulnerable, women who may need to seek
abortion coverage.

What in the world was going on this July Friday, when I, for one, had hoped to only be thinking about what Chelsea Clinton might be wearing this weekend?

Well, here’s what Paul Krugman had to say that same morning, on a very much healthcare-related note:

But progressive disillusionment isn’t just a matter of sky-high expectations meeting prosaic reality. Threatened filibusters didn’t force Mr. Obama to waffle on torture; to escalate in Afghanistan; to choose, with exquisitely bad timing, to loosen the rules on offshore drilling early this year.

Nor did “threatened filibusters force” the President to continue to deny women equal access to healthcare, as he did today.

What has the President said about this issue, albeit via his HHS Secretary? Well, in effect, that when it comes to healthcare (of all things) men can pay their own way (for whatever they want), but women can’t. No matter what harm that may cause to them.

This is tragic, especially when there’s just no earthly reason for it, not to mention nothing so prosaic as “threatened filibusters.”

In the “dog days of August” two decades ago, I met a young community organizer at a public hearing on Chicago’s South Side. He and I sat together and listened and learned from neighborhood residents seeking what we all deserve: a fair shake. That organizer was Barack Obama.

Well, Mr. President: Then you couldn’t deliver to those women the fair shake they deserved. But, today, in this upcoming “dog days of August” week, you, and only you, can deliver — to each and every American woman — the fair shake she deserves, the one that’s about saving her life and health.

Mr. President: As you think about your visits with those women autoworkers [last week], think about their lives as well as their jobs. Their lives depend on you. You have made that very clear today. Don’t fail them by permitting this HHS rule to live.

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  • equalist

    While I can almost see barring women from obtaining abortions through the program, I cannot see any possible reason for barring women from obtaining abortions using their own funds while on this program.  No other group is so limited on what they can do with their own money while on a government funded program as these women.  Unless you count the rules regarding illegal substances and people on government funded assistance, which don’t even compare beacause A) abortion is not illegal, and is in fact a right given by the constitution, and B) the powers that be don’t drug test to verify that people aren’t using illegal substances on government programs, so there’s no real prevention there, whereas women on the health care program would have no way to hide the fact that they’ve had an abortion provided by their own monies because it would be in their medical records, unless they got a back alley abortion which would further risk their health and lives.

    On the other hand, the major objection to this rule is that carrying a pregnancy for these women would further endanger their lives, but that is one of the allowances in the rule, that an abortion can be obtained when the pregnancy endangers the woman’s life.  It shouldn’t have to get to the point of life threatening before a woman is allowed to access medical care, but at least there is that one small provision in the bill.  Although, what that will do to women’s future fertility, and how that will affect their health long term does not appear to be addressed at all.  In all cases, medical decisions should be made my doctors, not politicians, and should be made with the best interest of the patient in mind, not votes.

  • saltyc

    It doesn’t let women buy abortion coverage through the program, that’s the problem. Participants would have to pay for an abortion out of pocket, which can be quite costly, to pay for a medical procedure in full when you’re supposed to be covered by insurance. The with your own funds thing is in reference to the Nelson provision which stigmatizes abortion care by making women buy an extra insurance policy just to cover abortion, which is not in this program, you just can’t have abortion insurance at all unless you find your own insurer to do so.

    So local abortion funds will be even more swamped with calls by women who can’t afford to get an abortion, and women getting abortions will know that their political leaders including their President thinks they shouldn’t be getting one, and that’s why they’ll make it as hard as they possibly can.