Stupak Amendment To Penalize & Impoverish Women & Children

One of the sins of the recently House passed health care plan is that it denies poor women access to the constitutionally protected right to abortion, thus screwing with their right to self-determination. From the National Organization for Women:

The Stupak Amendment goes far beyond the abusive Hyde Amendment, which has denied federal funding of abortion since 1976. The Stupak Amendment, if incorporated into the final version of health insurance reform legislation, will:

  • Prevent women receiving tax subsidies from using their own money to purchase private insurance that covers abortion;
  • Prevent women participating in the public health insurance exchange, administered by private insurance companies, from using 100 percent of their own money to purchase private insurance that covers abortion;
  • Prevent low-income women from accessing abortion entirely, in many cases.

If that’s all you needed to hear, then contact your representative now (and, if you’re so inclined and able, join &/or donate to NOW too).

If you need a little more convincing, I present to you bits of what I wrote last year for Poverty Blog Action Day:

Years ago, when I lived in Wisconsin, I ran a single mother support group. One of the issues that reared its ugly head was the matter of choice and poverty; specifically as it related to those receiving government assistance.

“Welfare” is a dirty word, loaded with connotations about “laziness”, “sexual promiscuity”, “race”, “stupidity” — and “evil manipulation”. As a white woman on welfare at the time I’d seen it first hand. It was horrifically ugly. …But none more offensive to me than the matter of what happens to a woman on welfare who becomes pregnant.

At that time anyway (I have not bothered to see if this still exists in Wisconsin, but *do* know that it still exists in other states), a woman on welfare usually received health insurance through the state. It was the same insurance state employees had — but with one special, dirty, caveat: women on welfare did not have the right to choice.

Women on welfare were not allowed abortion services/coverage.

State employees would have them covered, but not the poor, lazy, sexually promiscuous welfare women.

Why? Because women on welfare lack the moral fiber to make such decisions.

Further angering me, is the fact that the media, and Tommy Thompson, went on & on about how the fine people of the state of Wisconsin were tired of paying for the free-loading welfare queens. They bitched about having to pay for someone else’s brats. They bitched we didn’t work enough. But mainly they bitched about how we got filthy rich off the system, sucking at the state’s teat as we popped out more & more babies for the extra $17 a month.

OK, I can no longer swear it was exactly $17 — but I did do the math at the time and the ‘extra’ amount didn’t even cover diapers (which, by the way, are like condoms and cannot be purchased with food stamps).

But in any case, and despite ‘everyone’ wanting us off welfare, women on welfare were not allowed abortions unless they themselves came up with the $300-$700 the procedure cost. When you can’t afford what you have, how are you supposed to come up with that amount cash? From the guy? :snort: Are you serious? The whole welfare system, and the majority of our society, does not hold men accountable for such things as a woman’s pregnancy. While you debate, insist, demand and cry, the fetus grows… And your window of a safe procedure closes.

Now, if you can’t afford the abortion, imagine how well you do supporting another child.

It’s poverty by entrapment.

Just when you might see light at the end of a day care required tunnel, just when you might have thought you could turn this corner and be the next Horatio Alger story, you realize you’re back where you started. No. You’re back where you started minus 100 steps.

And ‘society’ isn’t just requiring mothers to sacrifice themselves for a new child, but to sacrifice their other children as well.

While uppity citizens like to deny the realities of what happens to a woman in this country when she ‘finds herself pregnant’ and condemn her to her scarlet letters (an ‘A’ for adultery and a ‘W’ for welfare), the fact remains that the woman who finds herself pregnant is at the mercy of their wickedness. While religious groups like to scream that they won’t pay for the ‘murder of an unborn innocent’, they do so for government workers.

Poverty is more than an economic line, it’s a barrier to choice. And what’s worse, at the root of all this evil is the false preaching & mean-spirited perpetuation of the stereotype that all poor women are dumb, loose, and morally bankrupt.

No one can pretend they do not know the realties of being pregnant here in the US. No one can feign ignorance to the ties between parenting and poverty. Yet they willingly turn their blind-eyes, let moral-deafness protect their delicate ears, and continue to abuse the poor women and families of this country.

If you don’t believe me, how about some facts from experts?

Co-authors Elizabeth Oltmans Ananat, Jonathan Gruber, Phillip Levine, and Douglas Staiger can show you the importance of the phenomenon of selection (meaning how, on average, children’s outcomes may have improved because they were more likely to be born into a household in which they were wanted) in Abortion and Selection. From the digest at the National Bureau of Economic Research:

Taken together with earlier research results, the authors’ findings suggest that the improved living circumstances experienced by children born after the legalization of abortion had a lasting impact on their lifelong prospects. Children who were “born unwanted” prior to the legalization of abortion not only grew up in more disadvantaged households, but also grew up to be more disadvantaged as adults. This conclusion is in line with a broad literature documenting the intergenerational correlation in income and showing that adverse living circumstances as a child are associated with poorer outcomes as an adult.

So, if you can’t support women and their original sin, I’ll use the cry conservatives do, “Think of the children!” — and by that, I mean the millions here, not the children-in-waiting called fetuses. You do this by admitting women — all women, including the poor — have the right to self-determination and the constitutionally protected right to abortion. These are the very things the Stupak Amendment strips away.


  1. While the Stupak agreement is certainly a conservative effort to co-opt the health reforms, there is a very fine line to walk because of this so that health reforms can get the necessary support to be enacted rather than having the reforms being prevented on the basis of this issue. If health reforms are not put in place impoverished women and children will also be affected by continuing to have to survive with the current system in which they can’t afford care. While the agreement does push a belief system, it does not prevent abortion and the amendment can be fought later.

  2. The Stupak Amendment is unacceptable. It is the worst bit of legislations for women’s health care rights — constitutionally protected rights — in my lifetime.

    This bill would deny women the right to use their own personal, private funds to purchase an insurance plan with abortion coverage; and, as worded, would make it virtually impossible even for private insurance companies participating in the new system to offer abortion coverage to women.

    This cannot be tolerated or accepted. People need to wake up here!

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