Saturday, November 20, 2004

Round one

Time to get to work, folks:

Negotiators Add Abortion Clause to Spending Bill

"House and Senate negotiators have tucked a potentially far-reaching anti-abortion provision into a $388 billion must-pass spending bill, complicating plans for Congress to wrap up its business and adjourn for the year.

The provision may be an early indication of the growing political muscle of social conservatives who provided crucial support for Republican candidates, including President Bush, in the election.

House officials said Saturday morning that the final details of the spending measure were worked out before midnight and that the bill was filed for the House vote on Saturday.

The abortion language would bar federal, state and local agencies from withholding taxpayer money from health care providers that refuse to provide or pay for abortions or refuse to offer abortion counseling or referrals. Current federal law, aimed at protecting Roman Catholic doctors, provides such 'conscience protection' to doctors who do not want to undergo abortion training. The new language would expand that protection to all health care providers, including hospitals, doctors, clinics and insurers.

'It's something we've had a longstanding interest in,' said Douglas Johnson, a spokesman for the National Right to Life Committee. He added, 'This is in response to an orchestrated campaign by pro-abortion groups across the country to use government agencies to coerce health care providers to participate in abortions.'

The provision could affect millions of American women, according to Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, who warned Friday that she would use procedural tactics to slow Senate business to a crawl if the language was not altered.


Ms. Boxer said that she complained to Senator Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican who is the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, but that he told her that House Republican leaders insisted that the provision, which was approved by the House in July but never came to the Senate for a vote, be included in the measure.

'He said, 'Senator, they want it in, and it's going in,' 'Ms. Boxer recalled.

Some lawmakers and Congressional aides interpreted the House leaders' insistence as reflection of the new political strength of the anti-abortion movement and of Christian conservatives, who played an important role in re-electing Mr. Bush this month.

'They are catering to their right wing doing this,' said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa. 'It doesn't make it right. I think this is the first step.'

Mr. Harkin said he intended to try to force a vote next year on support for upholding the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion. 'I think it is time the women of America understand what is happening here,' he said. "

This is a slick continuation of the radical right's strategy of gradually eroding women's rights with incremental legislation that has a superficial aura of reasonableness. As I commented elsewhere, I think health care providers' rights are a legitimate issue in this debate, and the Repubs will frame any efforts to kill the provision as an effort by the Democrats to impose their morality on others.

To my mind, Harkin's strategy is more effective--let's get the whole thing on the table all at once. But his tactic won't work; they'll never let a resolution upholding Roe v. Wade get to the floor. Instead, why not repeatedly dare the Repubs to act on their sanctimonious campaign posture by introducing a bill stating that life begins at conception, and abortion is murder? They won't do that either, but their failure to act will be more conspicuous and more effective in driving a wedge between the various Republican constituencies.

Track down contact numbers/addresses for your senator here and your congressperson here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

why don't you go to work, or is a vanity press a job ?

12:55 PM  

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