Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Republican Party's War on Women, the Iowa Front

This is the fourth in a series of articles on the subject of women, abortion rights and the Republican Party. 

Republicans continue to say they don’t have to change their core principles, they only have to change the language they use to get their message out.  One perception they want to alter is the idea that they are running a “war on women”.  Looking at the news over the past few years, I’d say the Republican Party has a long way to go on this subject.

  • Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky): “Talk about a manufactured issue.  There is no issue.” 
  • RNC Chairman Reince Priebus:  “It’s a fiction.”
The War in Iowa 

the facts:  Last Wednesday, the Iowa House passed a bill that cuts all Medicaid funding for abortion providers if they choose to continue to provide abortion services.  The bill includes an exception for hospitals: a hospital providing abortions would still receive Medicaid money for other services to the poor, but would not be reimbursed for any abortions they perform. Any private doctor or clinic performing abortions would be dropped from the Medicaid program completely.

Current Iowa law allows Medicaid to pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest, severe fetal abnormality or when the life of the mother was threatened.  In 2012, Iowa’s Medicaid program paid for 22 abortions that fell under those constraints; five of those were the result of rape.  Under the proposed law, these exceptions would be eliminated.

Republican State Representative Matt Windschitl argued for the elimination of current exceptions saying that “As more people have become involved in the discussion, they’ve come to the realization that life begins at conception”.
Mr. Windschitl could have added “especially if the 'people' you’re talking about are Republicans.”
Part of the Republican argument for restricting the poor’s access to abortion was that a 16 year old who sees her mother getting an abortion is likely to become promiscuous.  
The bill passed with a vote of 52-46 mainly along party lines with just one Democrat voting for the Medicaid abortion ban.  The bill now goes back to the Senate.
This is quite possibly the oddest and least thought out restrictive abortion law I've encountered.  I can't decide whether it is an attack on social services masquerading as abortion legislation or vice versa.  And remember, this came about because of just 22 Medicaid funded abortions in 2012.  In order to eliminate those 22 abortions, Iowa Republicans are willing to deny medical care to all Medicaid patients.
In essence, they are saying that abortion is still legal as long as you can afford it. Prohibiting the poor from using a Medicaid provider for abortion services essentially creates a health care caste system in Iowa.  If you can afford to pay for your own abortion, you'll be taken care of.  But if you're poor, and your doctor accepts Medicaid patients and continues to provide abortion services, he or she will lose funding and have to stop caring for ALL Medicaid patients, no matter what their care involves--be it diabetic care, heart care, pediatric care or even simple flu shots. The new bill would prohibit all female Medicaid patients from receiving women's wellness exams at clinics like Planned Parenthood. This seems more like blackmail than thoughtful legislation:  Play by our rules or only paying customers will get health care.
It could have been worse, another Republican sponsored bill that would have re-defined murder as knowingly "killing an individual human being, without regard to age of development, from the moment of conception" has been dropped.  This bill could have put any woman receiving an abortion, as well as her abortion provider, (including procedures performed and paid for legally in hospitals), in jail for homicide.
I have to wonder, since the whole conservative movement seems hell bent on cutting social programs that care for those not fortunate enough to be financially secure, how these Iowa Republicans plan on caring for the unwanted babies that could be born in Iowa if the bill passes the Senate as written.
Do I wish women who can't afford to raise their children would stop having them? Absolutely!  But taking away the option to end an unwanted pregnancy isn't a solution.  It only adds to the need for long term and even more expensive social programs.  
And, perhaps the most important argument against Iowa's proposed restrictions: Abortion is legal under U.S. federal law, a fact that seems to keep slipping from the Republican mind. 

The Republican War on Women is "fiction"?


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