So this is out of my usual topic, having nothing whatsoever to do with film, but I think it is important, as a feminist to talk about H.R. 3 the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” and H.R. 358 the “Protect Life Act.” I have been protesting these bills all week at the twitter hashtag #DearJohn, contacting my representative, signing petitions and urging others to do the same. Today I wrote a letter that I will send to all the Democrats co-sponsoring these bills. I appealed to them as Democrats in hopes that they will be more inclined to see sense than their Republican opponents. Here is my letter:
As a Democrat and a woman I am deeply disappointed by your support of House bills H.R. 3 the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” and H.R. 358 the “Protect Life Act.” Each bill is a profound attack on women’s reproductive rights and goes against the Democratic principles we hold so dear. I understand that you are pro-life and I respect your determination to protect fetal life even though I do not necessarily agree with it. I hope you recognize that a woman’s right to control and make decisions about her own body is equally important. No one knows the struggle a woman goes through in deciding whether or not to continue a pregnancy but the woman herself. Each time is different and I believe sincerely that women are fully capable of making decisions that include a full awareness of what is best for herself, her family, and the fetus. I hope that soon you will come to recognize this as well.
H.R. 3 the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” goes far beyond existing law to deny coverage through private insurance, denying use of funds from a Health Savings Account, and denying tax deductions for the self-employed and employers. This bill would prevent employers from making their own decisions about what coverage to offer their employees. It would harm small businesses by removing a tax incentive they depend on. It would force insurance companies to strip abortion coverage out of their plans, which is the opposite goal of health insurance reform. In these difficult economic times we should not be removing the safeguards that low-income women and small businesses depend on in order to survive, we should be extending them.
H.R. 3 would make permanent the Hyde Amendment, which disproportionately harms low-income women, preventing them from managing their families as they see fit. Each additional child is a financial burden that she and her family may be unable to bear making it harder to survive and making them more dependent on government programs like Welfare, Unemployment, and Medicaid.
HR3 will make it harder for rape victims to seek justice, by creating a hierarchy of rape that is based on the worst elements of rape culture. HR3 is based on the idea that “good” people are only raped by strangers and “good” people are the only ones deserving of medical care.* Even with the “forcible rape” language removed H.R. 3 continues to put women in the position of having to prove their rape in order to have access to abortion. In a culture where rape is difficult to report due to attitudes such as the above, this is placing an undue burden on rape survivors. 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Only 6% of rapists are ever convicted. Hyde and H.R.3 will force many women to carry pregnancies resulting from rape to term because they are unable to prove to the government’s satisfaction that they have been raped. This is a psychological and physical ordeal no one should have to suffer through. A rape is traumatic enough without having the violation continue for months due to an unwanted pregnancy your government will not allow you to terminate. This is doubly true for women in the military where sexual assault is a growing problem and access to abortion is next to impossible. Furthermore abusers often force a pregnancy on their victim as a means of control. This law, and existing law, aids perpetrators of domestic violence in abusing and controlling their victim through forced pregnancy. Victims often don’t have access to their own money and it is impossible for them to pay for an abortion out of pocket. The ban on federal funds keeps victims dependent on their abuser.
“Conscience protections” in both H.R. 3 and H.R. 358 go beyond allowing a healthcare provider to refuse to provide abortions, if that is against their beliefs. It allows pharmacists to refuse to provide contraception, which is an important means of preventing unwanted pregnancies. As a result, more women end up seeking abortions because they were unable to prevent pregnancy due to someone’s “conscience.” It allows them to also refuse Plan B, a pill that does not induce abortion, but merely prevents a pregnancy from starting. These two provisions of “conscience protections” allow abortions to become more frequent and necessary. Not less. Furthermore, H.R. 358 the “Protect Life Act” does quite the opposite. It allows ER doctors to refuse to treat women with life threatening pregnancies by both refusing to provide an abortion, and refusing to refer her to a hospital that will perform one. This goes against longstanding law mandating that in an emergency, doctors must provide lifesaving care without regard to the patient’s ability to pay. This bill would allow doctors to let pregnant women die because the life saving medical procedure is against their personal beliefs. I hope that this provision merely escaped your attention and that now you will withdraw your support for this heinous bill.
Abortion is a legal medical procedure that many women require access to in their lives. Democrats have purported to support women’s reproductive rights and as a Democrat I call on you to stand behind those words and vote no on H.R. 3 and H.R. 358. There are many things our government can do to reduce the need for abortion. Effectively banning it is not one of them. That will only lead to more dangerous and deadly abortions, or suicide, for those desperately seeking to end a pregnancy. To reduce the need for abortion we can provide comprehensive sex education so that young people can make more informed and responsible decisions about sex, whether that is to wait or use contraceptives when having sex. We can provide more accessible and affordable contraceptives, including Plan B, so that an unwanted pregnancy becomes less frequent. We can strongly pursue and prosecute rapists and abusers so that no woman is forced to have sex or become pregnant against her will. We can provide universal healthcare so that carrying a pregnancy to term becomes less dangerous and expensive. I am sure that as someone who values life that you value the lives of women equally to that of a fetus. Please remember that as you make your decision on H.R.3 and H.R. 358. Thank you for your time.
*This section I borrowed from Sady Doyle at Tiger Beatdown. She organized the #DearJohn protest and has been vocal and determined in opposing these bills. She is also a damn good writer and you should definitely be reading her blog.