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Jerrold Nadler: Standing Up to Stupak

Leah Berkenwald at Jewesses with Attitude has a great rundown of how devastating this weekend was for pro-choice Americans who watched the anti-abortion Stupak amendment pass and get tacked onto the House’s healthcare reform bill.

On Saturday, one of two men who stood up along with a group of Democratic female lawmakers to argue against the amendment was Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who represents much of Manhattan and a chunk of Brooklyn and is one of the most prominent liberal and Jewish members of Congress. Nadler didn’t just complain that the amendment was a distraction: He spoke up strongly and clearly about the effect of the bill on women. “This amendment adds a new discriminatory measure against women,” he said, explaining that the amendment takes current policy even further into the anti-abortion realm.

“It should not be used as a political football,” he added.

I’m proud that a Jewish legislator from my hometown would be so unabashedly pro-woman, but appalled that he alone made up half the male legislators who felt it worth his while to express outrage at the amendment. The other man to speak out against the amendment was Illinois Democrat Mike Quigley. Clearly, we need more strident allies in Congress.

Watch Nadler here:

So why are pro-choicers so angry? Well, the events of Saturday night were a depressing continuation of the chipping away at reproductive rights we’ve seen occurring for decades now in America. While Roe remains law technically, the access for women from less privileged economic and more remote geographic backgrounds has been steadily shrinking. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told writer Emily Bazelon last year:

There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to me so obvious. … So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.

And the trend continues. As Jessica Arons of the Center for American Progress notes at RH Reality Check (Full disclosure: I write regularly for RHRC), this amendment does not just maintain status quo restrictions on “federally-funded” abortions, but rather “potentially goes farther than any other federal law to restrict women’s access to abortion.” Not only will lower-income women continue to be prevented from obtaining policies that cover abortion, but any woman who either receives a subsidy to buy a policy or wishes to buy into the public option will be excluded from receiving abortion coverage. This could affect a larger group, including a huge number of freelancers, part-timers and self-employed women who don’t have access to employer-based health care. Furthermore, it may discourage insurance companies from providing abortion coverage, as they want to compete for those subsidized-purchasers.

We’ll see if organizations and legislators in favor of abortion rights, such as Nadler and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, can successfully strip Stupak’s language from the final bill that lands on President Obama’s desk.

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