Just days after the anniversary of a seminal presidential election that promised sweeping change with a mandate to repair the economy and reform our broken health care system, the U.S House of Representatives passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962), legislation Democrats argue will ameliorate both.
And while pundits have called the passage of H.R. 3962 by the most fractious house of Congress “masterful” and “unprecedented,” some LGBT advocates see it more personally, as a signal of good-faith on the part of the Obama Administration of his dedication to achieving full equality for LGBT Americans.
After all, health care reform as currently crafted could stand to improve the lives of the greatest number of LGBT Americans in decades and parlay as a watershed civil rights victory for years to come.
That’s because H.R. 3962 serves as a composite of numerous bills, many of which national LGBT organizations have lobbied tirelessly to enact over the years. Under the leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the prod of powerhouses like the Human Rights Campaign, H.R. 3962 includes provisions that will allow the health care system to better address health issues that impact the LGBT community, through enhanced research and data collection; expand health care coverage for lesbian and gay couples by terminating the disproportionate taxation of employer-provided domestic partner healthcare benefits; authorize the use of state Medicaid funds for early HIV treatment as opposed to withholding treatment until patients develop full-blown AIDS; protect LGBT people from discrimination by the health care industry; and provide comprehensive sex education programs that focus on reducing the incidence of STDs and teen pregnancy rather than just abstinence.
But as the eleventh hour came to a close, pro-life Democrats injected an amendment (Stupak-Pitts) that would ban the coverage of abortions for millions of women participating in both the proposed public option AND the private insurance exchange program, stoking the ire of reproductive rights groups and their allies everywhere. That’s right, even if a woman were to pay 100 percent “out-of-pocket” for her healthcare coverage purchased on a private insurance plan, abortion services would be virtually impossible to cover thanks to the Stupak-Pitts Amendment.
Potentially seen as the greatest set-back to the Choice Movement in a generation, over 40 House Democrats have indicated their opposition to the bill after conference if this amendment remains intact, setting the stage for an intra-Party showdown that could bring this bill to an untimely death. As the Senate prepares for debate on a similar bill this week, which is consistent with an existing federal funding ban of abortion but not as sweeping as the House version, the Stupak Amendment may part Congress on both party and cameral lines.
Kind to us, the House bill is harsh on a key ally with whom our community shares a sacred and bedrock principal established in the landmark Supreme Court case of Griswold vs. Connecticut: the implicit constitutional right to privacy, without which Lawrence vs. Texas would have never had the legal foundation to strike down sodomy laws.
At this juncture LGBT advocates have an unwieldy dance before us. While we praise lawmakers for the historic steps they’ve taken thus far to improve the lives of millions of Americans, LGBT and otherwise through this bill, we must not forget the generations of women who’ve perished at the hands of an indifferent government because of the inaccessibility to an abortion. To find out more about how you can stand with the Choice community, visit www.prochoiceamerica.org.