Women’s health not a subject for debate

Shane Wade
Opinion Editor

As of last week, I am ashamed to be a Virginian.

Our General Assembly passed an amendment to House Bill 1900 that prevents state insurers enrolled in a federal health exchange from offering plans that have coverage for abortions, effectively barring access to abortion for all but those that can afford to pay out of pocket. The legislation represents a culmination in the state of Virginia’s culture war against women and their individual rights.

Illustration by Chris Kindred
Illustration by Chris Kindred

The argument against allowing public health care coverage for abortion often rests upon a reluctance by politicians to allow “taxpayer-funded abortions.” It’s unfortunate that people have become so insensitive to the well-being of others that they feel they must couch discussions in such terms.

Taxpayers fund a massive assortment of programs, departments and initiatives they may disagree with, whether it be for personal, economic or religious reasons. I’m certain a great deal of citizens are against taxpayer-funded wars or taxpayer-funded legislators that sell out their constituents to lobbyist or anti-rights legislation.

To make this about what a questionable percentage of what taxpayers want is both intellectually disingenuous and hypocritical.

It should also be noted that taxpayers will still “fund abortions” even under this amendment in the case of rape, incest, life endangerment or fetal impairment.

Denying women the right of choice in their health care relegates them to second-class citizens. Don’t forget that women in Virginia must also undergo a state-directed counseling session, as well as an unnecessary ultrasound prior to receiving an abortion.

Equality cannot exist in a country that insists that one segment of the population does not have freedom to their own body.

Open access to abortion should be a health care right. It’s about more than the potential life of a child. A woman’s body is first and foremost her own. Not her potential child’s. Not her husband’s. Not the government’s.

There should be no debate here; these are indisputable facts.

When Gov. Bob McDonnell and state legislators, a patriarchal governing body, made this decision without the consent of the governed, they began to serve only to reinforce their own power structure and the static nature of women’s rights in America.

To that end, the legislation also works to further America’s class war: Wealthy women will be able to pay for abortion treatments out-of-pocket. Low-income, working women won’t.

That’s a major disparity issue that cannot be ignored. Of women that receive an abortion in America, 69 percent are considered economically disadvantaged, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization working to advance reproductive health.

Denying abortion coverage is a socioeconomic issue. Data from the Global Turnaway Study, a project that tracks the social and economic implications of denying access to legal abortions, shows women who sought to terminate a pregnancy but were denied are three times more likely to fall below the poverty line than women who did receive an abortion.

These legislators need to answer this question: What happens when you’re too poor to provide for a family or afford a child? Is the child supposed to be brought up in impoverished condition? Are they supposed to go to social services and help perpetuate that system and its expenses? Or are the poor just not supposed to procreate?

This anti-rights legislation is yet another example in a long line of state infringements on individual rights and freedoms. If conservatives and Tea Party activists needed to champion a cause, look no further that the egregious overreach of power that “big government” has set forth right here in Virginia.

Neither McDonnell nor the state legislators who approved the legislation are true conservatives or true leaders. They continually seek to divide our state in every major piece of legislation passed, including their transportation bill, redistricting plan and attempt to decrease funding to the social programs.

The only aspect of this legislation that’s more alarming than the manner of its passage and the makeup of its sponsors is the insipid ethos that health procedures, surgeries and treatments for women are subjects for debate.

Politicians versed in law are acting as arbiters of medical facts and knowledge and when they are wrong, as they so often are, it is the people at the lowest levels of the socioeconomic ladder who suffer.

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