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Abigail Chance '11: Women's rights bargained for health care reform

While skimming the front page of the New York Times on Sept. 28, I was appalled, and yet not completely surprised, when I read about the current debate in President Obama's proposed health care reform: abortion. For those who missed it, the article, titled "Abortion Fight Complicates Debate on Health Care," detailed the right-wing opposition to any health care legislation that would include the "controversial" procedure.

This opposition has delayed necessary reform that would benefit many Americans, and could also prevent private companies, including those that now include abortion coverage, from continuing the service under the limited proposed reform. What is the most upsetting, however, is not the age-old pro-life/pro-choice debate, but instead the fact that Congress is listening to anti-abortion extremists.

Not only has this become a class issue, but again, women are defending their equality and basic rights, including access to a legal medical procedure. Restricting access, particularly for middle- and lower-income women, because of religious pressure on healthcare reform is simply unacceptable.

Speakers for women's rights are being drowned out by the well-funded, forceful conservative voice in Congress, so it is important, especially for young women like us, to respond. Many female Brown students fought the negative effects of Bush administration policies on access to birth control, so why aren't we protesting this too? 

A united support for the Obama administration seems important, especially for many passionate, liberal college students. However, excluding women's rights from reform is simply not progressive. We need to be speak out and be loud. Otherwise, without access, we will not have the choice to make our own decisions.

Reproductive freedom and access to contraception are central to women's health care, and I will not allow politicians to negotiate away those rights. Democratic politicians are proving to be more interested in their current and potential financial backers than in representing the interests of women. And yet again, the GOP is masterfully using abortion and its patriarchal, sexist discourse as tools to delay much needed healthcare reform that would benefit many in need.

For those who want to talk about funding and government control, let's talk about how the same people who have been calling the Obama administration "socialist" for increased government intervention now want to get in between women and doctors to decide what might be considered "elective," and therefore prohibited, when it comes to reproductive health.

Yet I have not heard any talk about men's sexual health, including erectile dysfunction medication and vasectomies. Will Viagra be publicly funded?

Many on the right argue against paying taxes for something they do not support, but that is simply how our democracy works.  I know many people, including myself, who do not want our tax money funding unnecessary wars, torture or the death penalty. Why is abortion any different?

Frankly, I am also saddened by President Obama. I was right there among the many Brown students parading on the Main Green that marvelous night when he was elected and promised real change. But recently he has made it quite clear that future re-election and maintaining his appeal to those on the "middle ground" (including those who oppose women's basic right to comprehensive health care) are more important. As the Times article explains, Obama has "promised for months that the health care overhaul would not provide federal money to pay for elective abortions."Is he, the president I enthusiastically voted for, really willing to sacrifice women's health care to get opponents such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on-board?

If so, I have lost complete faith and respect in his ability as our leader. Limiting access and insurance coverage for a legal medical procedure because of religious and moral beliefs is outrageous, and until there exists a truly secular state, with a president who can take a stand and treat women as equals, the female body will continue to be used as a politicized object.

If women's rights are ignored, what then does health care reform mean and for whom is it intended?  From what I understood, reform meant that everybody, no matter one's race, class, sex, gender, sexual orientation or religion would have sufficient access to health care and the right to make informed decisions.

Abortion is legal and should be covered under any and every plan, no matter whether it is public or private.  I will not have others' political or religious views imposed on my body or on the bodies of other women in this country.  I will no longer allow others, including Democrat politicians, to place their politics in my womb.

I am outraged. Please tell me I am not alone.

Abigail Chance '11 is a Hispanic studies and gender and sexuality studies concentrator.



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