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Abortion Is Not the Only Fight for Women in Health Reform

U.S. women are tired of seeing their rights being ignored or abused under America's lopsided healthcare system.
 
 
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Finally, a  feminist health campaign telling it like it is: American women are being thrown under the bus for an insurance industry-friendly motion towards "health reform." Enough with the handwringing, Jane Fonda seems to say  in this video for the "Not Under the Bus" campaign. It's time for women to stop that bus and start driving it.

The healthcare bill currently headed for conference committee station in Congress is troubling to progressives on several accounts, but for women, it will have the ironic effect of making a medical procedure less accessible. The Senate's  abortion "compromise," extorted by Ben Nelson of Nebraska (along with a pile of cash for his state), ostensibly means that women who want full coverage will have to write two checks: one to cover abortion, and one to cover everything else.

Analysts worry this will amount to a  Stupak-like ban on all insurance coverage for abortions – how many insurers, not to mention employers, are going to put up with separate checks? And that's only a question for "blue" states that won't ban abortion coverage entirely. If the expected happens, it will mean that women will have to pay more out of pocket and travel even longer distances to exercise what Roe versus Wade supposedly codified as a "right."

Last month, feminists were shocked at Stupak-Pitts, then outraged. Now, Jane Fonda is looking outright panicked on Youtube: "Help end discrimination against women," she pleads. It may well turn out that the decade's greatest threat to abortion access wasn't George Bush, but Obamacare.

Odd as it is to say, I find Fonda's panic somewhat comforting. In both its boldness and its generality, it signals the women's movement to regroup at square one, to focus on women rather than on a procedure. After all, the right to abortion is based on broader Constitutional rights to autonomy and bodily integrity and the privacy to make decisions about what happens or doesn't happen to one's body. And if we apply these rights broadly, not only to a woman's "right to choose" to terminate a  pregnancy but also her right to choose to carry that pregnancy to term, and her right to choose what happens or doesn't happen to her body at the time of childbirth, then we would see that all pregnant women are being denied these rights.

Case in point:  Joy Szabo of Page, Arizona, pregnant for the fourth time. In order to exercise her rights, she sought long and hard for a provider and had to travel 300 miles away from her family for care. But Szabo wasn't seeking an abortion; she was seeking a vaginal birth. You see, Szabo gave birth previously by cesarean section. She is among the hundreds of thousands of U.S. women who seek  vaginal birth after caesarian (Vbac) each year, though nearly half of hospitals won't allow it. Szabo was denied the right to deliver at her local hospital unless she delivered surgically. She was even threatened with a court order. You thought abortion was controversial? Ask a nurse about Vbac.

Szabo also told it like it is: "Page Hospital: Enter my body without permission, sounds like rape to me," she wrote in lipstick on the back of her minivan. Szabo's ordeal ended happily on 5 December, when she gave birth vaginally in Phoenix. But the majority of American women in this situation are scheduling repeat surgery — either on their doctors' recommendation or insistence — though research has shown it is more likely to result in a baby's admission to neonatal intensive care for prematurity and breathing problems, to say nothing of the risks to mothers.

 
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