The Nation

Senate Reform Bill Keeps Stupak at Bay, So Far

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The pro-choice question of the year is whether the Senate will tack an amendment like Stupak-Pitts on its version of health reform. So far, senators are sticking with status quo Medicaid restrictions but not imposing any more.

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Week of Activism

The group sponsored a week of activism across the country, which ended on Dec. 6 with advocates in California calling voters in the districts of anti-choice Democrats and urging them to vote against pro-Stupak candidates in the 2010 elections.

 The Nov. 30 to Dec. 6 demonstrations included mini-rallies in over 70 college campuses and a gathering of over 385,000 signatures on a petition that constituents forwarded to President Barack Obama, Reid and Pelosi.

While coalition members all focused on the same goal--discouraging the Senate from adopting something like Stupak--individual organizations pursued separate strategies.

Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, told Women's eNews that her organization was bringing forward patients to speak with media and members of Congress to show how abortion is an integral part of women's reproductive health.

In the House Pro-Choice Caucus, Nadler, a member of the group, said it was urging advocates to put political pressure on Democrats. Nadler's colleague DeGette will continue to lobby Democrats in the Senate until the issue is put to rest, her spokesperson told Women's eNews.

Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, asked members to phone, e-mail and visit their elected representatives.

Rutgers University Women's Studies Professor Jyl Josephson called the turnout of about 600 people at the Dec. 2 rally "depressing." Josephson said she expected a few thousand people, but that it's hard to mobilize people around an issue choked in policy minutiae.

One Woman Mobilized

One person who was mobilized by the Dec. 2 protest is Dana Weinstein.

In an exclusive interview with Women's eNews, Weinstein said that until recently she'd felt uncomfortable even uttering the word "abortion."

But then it happened to her.

In the early part of this summer, Weinstein was still a happily pregnant 38-year-old watching TV at her home in Maryland. A reporter interviewed a physician in Boulder, Colo., named Warren Hern. After the murder of Dr. George Tiller earlier this year, Hern is one of the country's last doctors who still provides late-term abortions.

"I remember lying in bed thinking, how could anybody terminate later term?" Weinstein said.

But then, a few weeks later in late June, at 28 weeks, a routine sonogram showed an abnormality in her fetus's brain. A subsequent MRI showed that the fetus had two life-threatening conditions. If it survived birth, it would likely require immediate resuscitation and a life of feeding tubes.

After consulting more doctors, Weinstein and her husband wound up in Hern's clinic in Colorado.

Now, five months later, Weinstein is still fighting with her insurance company, hoping to be reimbursed for some of $17,500 it cost for the late-term abortion.

"I was fortunate to be able to pull the money together," Weinstein said, adding that the experience has spurred her to speak out on behalf of other, less fortunate women.

Her first move: vocally opposing the Stupak-Pitts amendment. In recent days Weinstein has shared her story with members of the National Abortion Federation, the staff of Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Women's eNews.

Julia Marsh is a Washington-based correspondent covering domestic and foreign affairs for a Japanese newspaper.

For more information:

The Coalition to Pass Health Care Reform and Stop Stupak!
http://action.stopstupak.com/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=385

The Stupak-Pitts amendment text
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/images/nytint/docs/the-stupak-amendment/original.pdf

Senate bill without a Stupak-like amendment
http://democrats.senate.gov/reform/patient-protection-affordable-care-act.pdf

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