Constitution gives women right to choose abortion – or not

The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal is one of few sources of conservative intellectual commentary left and they lost the abortion argument again this week.

On the subject of House Republicans adding so-called “Hyde Amendment” restrictions to Sen. Susan Collins’ proposed Obamacare fix that were rejected by Democrats and, therefore, not included in the $1.3 trillion bipartisan budget bill that passed Thursday, the editorial board cynically suggested Democrats “took a poison pill” for a special interest group.

The argument is hollow and rings of sexist drivel.

“The left has abandoned the idea that abortion is a personal choice and now regards it a self-evident right that everyone must subsidize. This article of faith apparently trumps the lifetime Democratic achievement of ObamaCare,” the editors wrote.

No, actually, it’s not “the left” who regard the right to abortion as “self-evident,” it’s the Supreme Court of the United States, a fact often downplayed by the right wing, but still significant. If you are personally opposed to abortion the constitution protects your right not to have one.

And no, rejecting the Hyde Amendment is not asking for a government subsidy but rather simply insisting on equal protection under the law. Why should one type of effective and safe medical procedure be separated from all others that are “subsidized” by tax dollars in the form of Medicare and Medicaid and the CHIP program and other programs for federal employees including servicewomen? Because of science? Facts? Religion?

None of the above.

When it comes to science, anti-abortion zealots stop at the zygote. The miracle of fertilization appears to stun the capacity for critical thinking about proven science, safety and medical and ethical advancement. Laws are being passed in state legislatures by Republicans opposed to abortion that require false information to be provided patients that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, for example, when it does not according to the science.

The facts are that abortion is safe, effective and performed 90 percent of the time in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, before a fetus has circuitry or infrastructure to experience pain. The rate of abortion has been decreasing with the advancement of contraceptive services but poor women – especially minorities – still have high rates of unintended pregnancies because they are denied access to medical services because of the Hyde Amendment.

And the religion? Please.

The assumption women who decide to have an abortion have not discussed it with God is arrogant and sexist. Women are capable of communicating with the Divine and committing acts that displease others just like men who fight their holy wars. Is life on earth a weigh station on the journey to eternity or what? Don’t all souls go to heaven? Your right to believe one way or the other is protected by the Constitution, but the right to force your beliefs on others is not.

Democrats in Congress rightfully drew the line at adding Hyde Amendment restrictions to Collins’ Obamacare fix because it would unjustly discriminate against and punish women and girls who, last time I checked, pay the same rates of taxes as men. Why should women pay federal taxes and be denied the use of them in exercising a right allegedly protected by the Constitution?

Collins was the champion of a stable American healthcare system for casting a pivotal vote to save Obamacare but the next minute she voted for the Republican tax bill that pulled out one of the legs of the stool. The repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate was done purposefully to sabotage a law that has done more to improve women’s and children’s health in decades in addition to adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit that will be paid for by cutting programs that primarily help women and children. Enough is enough.

Collins said she agreed to vote for the tax legislation that largely benefits corporations and very wealthy people and harms the poor and disabled in exchange for a promise by her party that her Obamacare fix – subsidies for insurance companies, essentially – would be passed shortly thereafter. Nothing in the record suggests Democrats agreed to support her fix with the Hyde Amendment around its neck. She should have expected the good old boys from the Freedom Caucus would strap on the Hyde Amendment and sprinkle anti-abortion pixie dust on her carefully crafted policy. Democrats are not to blame.

Whether Collins got played by the Republicans, the Democrats, the president or some combination thereof is irrelevant. Whether Collins overplayed her hand and is deservedly stinging with embarrassment for relying on promises by Republican leadership or whether the Democrats undermined Obamacare for political purposes is irrelevant. The Hyde Amendment needs to go – not get tacked on every piece of legislation herky jerky.

Enough is enough.

As published in the Portland Press Herald