When the Pennsylvania Senate reconvenes, you face an ominous choice. While I had hoped that a new chamber session would bring renewed focus on protecting Pennsylvania’s economic future, I am again disappointed that the focus has not been aimed where it should. Instead of discussing Governor Corbett’s state liquor privatization initiatives, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives chose to debate and pass legislation that would prohibit Pennsylvanian women from purchasing insurance plans that cover a medical procedure that some people have a religious objection to. I am sure you know I am talking about House Bill 818, which would prohibit the sale of insurance plans that cover abortion on the health insurance exchange market in Pennsylvania.
Proponents of HB818 have tried to sell the logic that this bill prevents government funding of abortion. But the crux of this rumination is illogical. Government funding of abortion is already illegal under existing law, which includes the new health care law. Proponents also say that, “since Pennsylvania would pay for the health insurance exchange, the state would be paying for abortions” by association. However, by this logic, since all Pennsylvanians fund public education and one of three Pennsylvania women will have an abortion for various reasons during her life, all Pennsylvanians are funding abortion with our education dollars. It is a transparent non-truth.
The health insurance exchange is simply a market stand for insurers to sell insurance plans. Whether an insurance plan covers abortion is not germane to the cost of administering the insurance market. When a person purchases private insurance, in no way does the state of Pennsylvania foot any part of the bill. If an abortion is performed and covered by an insurance provider as part of a private insurance plan, the cost of that abortion is paid directly by the insured and the insured’s employer if the employer shares costs.
Some try to tell a story of lost state revenue from the pretax nature of health care premiums. But this is a smoke and mirror tale as well.
I therefore reject the premise posited by proponents of HB818. I find the only logical objection to the sale of comprehensive insurance plans on the insurance exchange to be a religiously motivated logic set. And I therefore cannot support legislation in favor of this religious establishment.
As your constituent, I expect that you will consider my position carefully when you cast your vote on HB818 if it should come to the floor.
A great article by Caperton on Feministe raises the oft controversial subject (among abortion rights activists, that is) about whether discussing abortion as a medical procedure that should be rare is appropriate. Caperton takes the position that, as is the case for angioplasty, preventative medicine should make the demand for abortion lower. Caperton argues, and I agree:
“So yes, we should want abortion to be rare–not because there’s anything wrong with it as a procedure, or because it’s horrific or universally traumatizing, but because we’d generally rather not have to pay money and undergo minimally invasive medical procedures if we can avoid them. Um, hi.”
Yeah, um, hello. Medical intervention should be a rarer occurrence. Americans have come to rely too much on getting a pill or a simple operation to cure all the ills they did themselves over the course of their lives. Preventable, medical intervention costs the U.S. billions of dollars every year. Effective preventative medicine saves money and lightens burden on our health care system.
The fact that abortion is the topic of this particular preventative medicine debate doesn’t change the math. Tiptoeing around abortion and the desire to reduce the number of abortions needed due to fear of negative publicity has more of a negative impact that addressing abortion as you would address any other preventable medical procedure. The simple fact is, the majority of unwanted pregnancy is preventable. If we change the way our society views a woman’s right to control her reproductive life and her general health, we benefit her, her children and our society economically and socially.
In a transparent attempt to garner political clout among far-right conservatives, Representative Daryl Metcalfe has introduced House Bill 2405 in the Pennsylvania Assembly. HB 2405, if passed, would exclude Planned Parenthood and similar health care providers from eligibility for Title X reimbursement if they are associated with providers that offer abortion services - all despite the fact that by law no Title X funds may be used in programs that offer abortion as a method of family planning.
In Metcalfe’s own words:
“Regardless of their position on abortion, Pennsylvania taxpayers must no longer be forced to subsidize the loss of innocent lives… In reality, women in Pennsylvania will be healthier and the children safer when we permanently defund Planned Parenthood and its anti-family agenda.”
Wow. What. A. Liar.
Rather than subsiding abortion, as Metcalfe asserts, Title X funding is used at Planned Parenthood to prevent unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Defunding Planned Parenthood would NOT prevent abortions, as Planned Parenthood’s Title X clinics are financially independent business entities separate from the advocacy organization and the organization that provides abortions.
Since Title X funding is never used to fund abortion, defunding comprehensive reproductive health care providers would only serve to increase the number of unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases in Pennsylvania by reducing access to qualified providers. Contrary to Metcalfe’s words, HB 2405 will not result in healthier or safer Pennsylvanians. Reducing access to health care is not a pro-women or a pro-family agenda. House Bill 2405 would lead to fewer health care options, fewer health care services provided*, increased transmission of sexually transmitted infections, higher incidence of unplanned pregnancy, prenatal anomalies and preterm births*, and more abortions.
Metcalfe’s bill is not a pro-life policy. It is a scourge.
*due to supply of Title X providers not keeping pace with demand for Title X services
Poverty begets poverty. Poverty is one of the hardest economic situations to escape from in the United States. As the income gap widens and Americans become poorer and weaker, poverty, for some, becomes an cyclic chasm from which escape can seem impossible.
Enter Title X.
One of the benefits of the Title X program is that it gives women and men an opportunity to halt the cycle of poverty. As a demographic, being a single woman with children puts one into one of the largest and poorest faring economic subgroups in the nation. Having the ability to prevent additional pregnancies gives women better opportunity to work themselves and their families out of the hole of poverty.
Birth control access can have a profound effect on the welfare of a family. When a woman is not perpetually pregnant, she has better opportunity to hold down a steady job (or even two or three) and even go to school. With less mouths to feed, more of the family income can be used toward purchasing fuel, clothes and medical care for children. Especially for single mothers, birth control access can mean the difference between a lifetime on welfare and earning a living wage for ones family.
Politicians and pundits like to play the “birth control is a license to have sex” card. To them I say, what about to the women who don’t have a real choice not to have sex? I have listened to stories from women living with abuse who really didn’t have a choice – it was submit or get beat up. How is a woman in that situation supposed to claw herself out of a life of poverty and abuse if she is always pregnant and, thus, has no job and no money? For a woman in that situation, control over her own body means safety and freedom.
Politicians in Pennsylvania know that Title X funds cannot be used for abortion care. They also know that the restrictions on Title X funding bar the state from discriminating against qualified health care providers – meaning Pennsylvania would lose all of the Title X funding if House Bill 2405 were enforced.
A vote for HB 2405 is a vote against every woman struggling to pick herself up out of poverty. A vote for HB 2405 is a vote to empower poverty. What will these politicians choose for Pennsylvania women? Poverty or Opportunity?
*Edited to clarify restrictions on Title X funds.
Unshackling the market and promoting free market enterprise is one of the priorities of the Republican Party – except when it comes to women’s health. If you are a reproductive health care provider that also performs or even refers patients to another health care provider that performs abortion services in Pennsylvania today, you have to worry about your ability to continue offering preventative reproductive health care services to your patients. If you are a comprehensive reproductive health care provider, you won’t even have the chance to compete equally with health care clinics whose services are limited only to those reproductive health care services that are acceptable to the Catholic church (which ain’t much). That is because Rep. Daryl Metcalfe has introduced House Bill 2405 in the Pennsylvania Assembly which, if passed, would ban the commonwealth from allocating Title X funds to any health care organization that performs or is even associated with another organization that performs abortions for reasons other than rape, incest or a woman’s imminent death.
The sad fact of the matter is that such a move would alienate every Pennsylvanian who relies on Title X funds to fill the gaps in their health care. Other states, such as Indiana and Texas, have incurred burdensome legal fees at the expense of their citizens for defunding Planned Parenthood and similar organizations. And in contrast to the Republican mantra of “small government,” defunding comprehensive reproductive health providers does nothing to limit the power of the government. On the contrary, HB 2405 expands the reach of the PA government beyond the shallows of “provider qualification based on nondiscrimination” into the deep “government injection of religious dogma into law” sea. In essence, House Bill 2405 seeks to strip away religious freedom and provider choice from Pennsylvania citizens, thus limiting our health care options to the theological restrictions of the Catholics in the Pennsylvania government.
If that’s not immoral, I don’t know what is.
Pennsylvania legislators have an impossibly simple choice to make: table or vote down House Bill 2405 and maintain the Title X funding that ensures low income Pennsylvanians continue to receive reproductive health care, or pass HB 2405 thus alienating over 125,000 poorer Pennsylvanians from the basic health care they need to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections, prevent unplanned pregnancy, and ensure early detection of cervical and breast cancer. It may seem to you and me like there is only one logical choice. But I am not sure these politicians “get” it.
For many low-income Pennsylvanians, a Title X clinic represents the only source of health care they’ve got. For students or someone working for low wage with or without insurance, managing to pay for doctor’s visits, tests and birth control can be an enormous financial burden. Add children into that equation, and often the health care needs of the parent or parents is utterly trumped.
If Governor Corbett signs HB 2405, thousands of Pennsylvanians will be unable to access any health care at all. For those who rely on Title X funding for care, HB 2405 means loss. Rep. Metcalfe and his condescending cronies win when the poor lose. If that is not morally wrong, I don’t know what is.
Yet another state (commonwealth, really) has jumped on the “defund Planned Parenthood” bandwagon. Regardless of all the historical evidence highlighting the burden on taxpayers that results from doing so, Pennsylvania House Representative Daryl Metcalfe introduced House Bill 2405 which, if passed and signed by Governor Tom Corbett, would bar the Pennsylvania Department of Health from entering into a contract with or making a grant to…
“any entity that performs non federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where non federally qualified abortions are performed.”
Read, “If you provide your patients abortion care with private funds, we won’t give you public funds to provide non-abortion related services.” House Bill 2405 would be harmful to Pennsylvania in so many ways it would be tiresome to detail them all here. So I hereby embark on a blog-a-day tirade enumerating the various and sundry ways that defunding Planned Parenthood and other comprehensive reproductive health care clinics would endanger the welfare of Pennsylvanians.