Segregation is a word that makes me cringe.
Early activists against racism, my mother and father believed it was paramount to pass on lessons learned, so they raised us to know the horrors of the Holocaust and other outrages in history. I remember my mother placing a sticker in our living room window in the '60s in support of equal housing opportunities. Segregation is wrong, they explained to my sisters and me. So you can imagine my disgust to find a clause in the deed to our home that specified the land could never be sold to "non Caucasians."
Today we are told that segregation of funding for abortion in health care is a good thing. But what it means is that more women and children will be imperiled by the violence of abortion.
Segregation of funding for abortion undermines the needs of the women and their children. Masking problems that we have the opportunity to address is not an answer.
Having individual states opt out of abortion coverage is no answer, either. Is the violence of abortion less devastating to a woman in one state versus another? Why should a child be denied protection because his or her mother crosses some state boundary?
Certainly there are elements under discussion in the House and Senate health care reform bills that we, as pro-life feminists, believe in strongly and have spent years advocating. Many of those elements are encapsulated in one of two amendments offered by Sen. Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA). The amendment includes funding to help pregnant women in college - a measure based largely on FFL's work on campuses, as well as our work to combat violence against women and to serve those who are poor or have been abandoned by those they count on most.
Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Robert Casey, Jr., and other pro-life senators proposed an amendment similar to the Stupak amendment passed earlier in the House, which would prevent the use of public funds for abortion coverage. But senators who support abortion refused to allow a vote on the amendment.
Democratic senators were eager to find a compromise in order to move health care reform forward. According to a report by Associated Press, in the final plan offered by the Senate, "Sen. Nelson and one of his senior aides decided to try something different. States would be allowed to decide whether or not abortion could be covered by health plans operating in a new insurance marketplace under the bill. Plans covering abortion would have to collect a separate premium for the procedure, directly paid for by the person buying coverage. Premiums for abortion would be kept in a separate account."
I will not pretend that Feminists for Life is an expert in health care delivery systems. We are not.
But we do represent women who know from personal experience the enormous pressure to sacrifice themselves and their children for others - unwilling fathers-to-be, embarrassed families, well-meaning friends, unsupportive schools and employers, and the government elected to protect and serve us, especially the most vulnerable among us.
So I cannot shake the fact that organizations that have real expertise in health care (especially those who actually run hospitals) and advocate consistently against abortion also oppose the Senate's health care reform proposal. And while some of these groups have other issues on their agenda that are beyond Feminists for Life's mission, which is to systematically address the root causes that drive women to abortion - in particular the lack of resources and support - FFL shares their concern about the public funding of abortion allowed under the current pending Senate legislation.
Additionally, the House version of the bill eliminated a number of pre-existing conditions for which insurance companies can deny coverage, including domestic violence - but the Senate version doesn't propose eliminating them for adults until 2014. Why?
While we appreciate the work of those who have tried to lessen the damage of this legislation by including provisions for those we serve, good things piled upon bad are never good enough.
Do not lose hope. Our work is not finished. We can and will say YES to life-affirming solutions and NO to hurting women by publicly funding abortion - even if the funds are supposedly segregated - and we won't accept compromise on either one.
This isn't over yet.
Because women deserve better,
Serrin M. Foster