Today I received an email from NOW President Terry O'Neill. One of the reasons many feminists support NOW is to have an organization we can count on to look out for women’s rights. From Terry O'Neill:
The so-called health care reform bill now before the Senate, with the addition of Majority Leader Harry Reid's Manager's Amendment, amounts to a health insurance bill for half the population and a sweeping anti-abortion law for the rest of us. And by the way, it's the rest of us who voted the current leadership into both houses of Congress.
The National Organization for Women is outraged that Senate leadership would cave in to Sen. Ben Nelson, offering a compromise that amounts to a Stupak-like ban on insurance coverage for abortion care. Right-wing ideologues like Nelson and the Catholic Bishops may not understand this, but abortion is health care. And health care reform is not true reform if it denies women coverage for the full range of reproductive health services.
We call on all senators who consider themselves friends of women's rights to reject the Manager's Amendment, and if it remains, to defeat this cruelly over-compromised legislation.
Support for abortion rights is a litmus test issue for me. I’ve never voted for an anti-choice candidate, no matter how good that candidate might be on economic justice issues. And I don’t expect to ever vote for an anti-choice candidate.
I will write to my senators to let them know how outraged I am by the anti-choice language in the bill. I will continue to lobby to get this language out of the final bill, but I don’t want to ask my representatives to torpedo the final bill.
I have gone back and forth on this. What finally clinched it for me, was Gail Collins’ article which jogged my memory about what happened when progressives failed to work together to mobilize support for child care.
Collins relates a cautionary tale:
Back in 1971, Congress passed a bill aimed at providing high-quality early childhood education and after-school programs for any American family that wanted them…Then Richard Nixon surprised almost everyone by vetoing it. The social right, which was just beginning to come into its own, was delighted….
Meanwhile, there was hardly a peep from the other side. Children’s advocates had been enthusiastic at first, but as the legislation made its way through Congress, they squabbled over what kinds of community groups should be allowed to deliver the services…
In the end, the people who hated the whole idea were much more energized than the people who loved the idea, but disagreed on the details.
“People always think there will be another day,” said Jack Duncan, who was counsel for the subcommittee that handled the bill in the House. “Well, there might be another day, but not in my lifetime.”
At that stage in my life, I thought the 1971 child care bill was too flawed to support—-nothing short of free childcare for all would have satisfied me.
I didn’t realize at the time that we had just blown a historic opportunity which would have made an enormous difference in women’s lives. If there had been enough support from progressives to override Nixon’s veto, the bill would have in all likelihood have become stronger over time.
By now, Americans would view government subsidized high quality child care as a right—-just the way Europeans view child care as a right. We forget that social security was not widely supported initially, but there is now a consensus that financial support in old age is a right of citizens. Something similar is likely to happen with health care.
At this stage in my life, I am willing to take half a loaf to establish the principle that all Americans have a right to health care. We can’t miss this opportunity.