Saturday, November 21, 2009

Not 'Status Quo' ... But instead ... 'Status Backward'

This has not been a good year for women. Before President Obama could be sworn into office, the Bush administration enacted their 'conscience' regulation which elevated anyone else's conscientious decisions over that of any woman attempting to exercise her personal reproductive rights. Thus, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, janitors, and secretaries can now essentially deny access to reproductive services and medications, including not just abortions, but birth control pills, in-vitro fertilization, etc. The Obama administration announced that they would rescind that regulation in March 2009, accepting comments on the rescission for a 30-day period. That was a while ago, yet no action has yet been taken to rescind it and it's now November. For those of us that are counting, it's now been 8 months since the announcement.

Next on the list of legislative assaults on women's rights is the health care reform bill. The Affordable Health Care for America Act as passed by the House of Representatives represents a toxic mix of politics and ideology which will end up denying full reproductive health care coverage to a broad spectrum of women across this nation should it become the law of the land. Women have been fighting for rights for a couple of centuries now, and while we’ve gained inches, we’ve also lost feet. The Stupak amendment is the equivalent to losing a couple of yards!

Here's an example of what I mean. If a woman gets a divorce and loses coverage under her husband’s employer-based plan, and is forced to seek coverage via the exchanges, the Stupak amendment applies. That amendment goes so far as to say she can’t even use her own funds to purchase a rider to cover abortion coverage. Plus, any insurer who participates in the exchange is prohibited from offering abortion coverage in ANY plan that company offers … those policies offered through the exchange, as well as those offered privately.

I’m not sure if you’re aware that removal of a fetus that dies in-utero is considered an ‘abortion.’ That condition doesn’t occur as infrequently as one would expect. So if it’s not bad enough that a woman loses a baby at 7 months, the Stupak amendment adds an additional insult to her injury. Since the procedure she'd need would be the equivalent of an abortion, she would then have to pay all the expenses associated with that abortion to remove the dead fetus from her belly out of her own funds, because, under the Stupak amendment, it couldn’t/wouldn’t be covered under her insurance plan.

But, it gets even worse. As I understand the Stupak amendment, abortions would only be funded when the life of the mother was in “imminent danger of death” … in other words, when she’s within minutes of death. A large number of nasty conditions can occur that cause severe health problems for a potential mother. Those conditions can cause conditions such as organ failure. If a woman's kidneys fail, she could end up on dialysis for years waiting for a kidney transplant, and then on anti-rejection drugs for the remainder of her life ... IF she’s even able to get a viable transplant.

What if the fetus she’s carrying is severely deformed and would be born with half a brain and extensive other disabilities. No one but the mother (and her partner) should have a say in whether they choose to carry that fetus to term. No government edict should be able to dictate that they cannot even purchase an abortion rider using their own funds.

I’m sorry, but a woman is a human being, not just a vessel for nurturing a fetus. As a woman, I firmly believe it’s my choice, not that I’d ever exercise that choice, but it’s MY choice … not Stupak’s ... and certainly not the Council of Catholic Bishops’ choice (and I can't believe they sought out the Council of Catholic Bishop's approval ... what happened to separation of church and state?) whether I choose to carry or not carry a fetus to term. If I want to pay for an abortion rider, I should be able to do that … period!

The Senate Bill is not yet affected by the likes of a Stupak amendment, but a floor debate hasn't yet taken place and the GOP bullies and belly-achers on the Senate floor will most likely insist on similar language.

Then ... if all that wasn't enough, we get word from the US Preventive Services Task Force that women shouldn't begin participating in preventive mammogram screenings until the age of 50. The previous recommendation provided for annual screenings beginning at age 40. HHS Secretary Sebelius in responding to the ensuing firestorm indicated that women should ignore the panel’s findings and consult with their doctors about whether or not to use mammogram screenings, but she stopped short of criticising or countermanding the panel’s work. You can bet your bottom dollar those findings find their way into allowable insurance coverage options in the very near future.

In reaching their decision, it appears they relied purely on statistics. Not a single oncologist was consulted or in residence on that committee. Unilaterally, they determined that it was OK for 1 in every 1900 women to die of breast cancer to save money, and not upset any women with potentially false positive reports that would require additional screening. But, they didn't stop there. The panel urged against teaching and encouraging women to do routine self-examination, again because of the anxiety over lumps that might turn out not to be cancer. At that point, I lost my temper completely! Hey folks, women are intelligent human beings, not a group of whimpering dolts who can't manage their emotions.

I'm sorry ... but can someone please tell me when I woke up in Stepford? I'd really like to go home to what I thought was America.

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