Guest editorial…Is abortion coverage really an issue?

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by Shannon Williams

Members of Congress were finally able to pass a health care bill last Saturday night, but the feat wasn’t accomplished without controversy and compromise.

The item that generated the most debate and conciliation was abortion.

For years, abortion has been an issue with unfaltering supporters and opponents. This divisiveness was ever-present during the final discussions of the congressional health care reform bill.

In order to get the bill approved, congressional members had to compromise. The negotiation resulted in the passage of the bill as long as it stated that abortions wouldn’t be covered in a government-run plan, or in private plans that accept anyone using government subsidies. Exceptions to this ruling are cases of incest, rape or harm to the mother.

While I believe Congress’ compromise was needed in order to get the bill passed, the measure is unfair to women. Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said it best: “It singles (women) out as a group. No other procedure in this bill is denied.”

Why wasn’t Viagra excluded from the plan? Or how about invitro or fertility specialists, since they are both medical procedures and have to do with reproductive issues? Since we’re now waiting on the Senate to pass the bill, perhaps they should examine these questions before casting their votes. When one talks about exclusions, we have to be careful because excluding one group or entity can easily mean preferential treatment of another.

Abortion is covered under the constitution, so in all fairness, it should be covered under the health care bill. I recently read a blog and a man from Brooklyn made a very valid point. He said, “Gays, Blacks and Jews should be very concerned. If conservatives can target specific diseases or procedures that they don’t feel they can morally allow in the bill, what is stopping them from someday saying that the government should not fund treatment for HIV, sickle cell anemia or Tay Sachs disease.”

I’ve always believed in the importance of choice, as we never know what goes on in a specific woman’s life that may be a determining factor for choosing abortion. Mistakes happen and sometimes as a result, a woman becomes pregnant. If she knows in her heart of hearts that she can’t provide for that child (monetarily or emotionally), than perhaps abortion is the best choice for that particular woman—adoption may be the choice for another woman who has experienced different life circumstances. We never know, so the best thing to do is to leave all options on the table and let every woman determine the best solution to her specific situation. Period.

In an effort to look at things objectively, I recognize that prohibiting abortion in government plans isn’t a complete loss—it’s restrictive and certainly puts women at a disadvantage, but it’s not a total loss. At least abortion is still legal and coverage will be provided in instances of rape, incest or when there’s a potential danger to the mother.

As I researched the specifics of congressional members’ debate, I stumbled across something that makes me realize that in essence, all this abortion controversy relative to health care reform is a big distraction. It’s a distraction because of the Hyde Amendment.

Members of Congress passed the Hyde Amendment in 1976, which forbids federal funding for abortion. The only exceptions are the three that I mentioned previously: incest, rape, or harm to the mother.

So this essentially means that Congress, and now the Senate, are “debating” over something that really isn’t necessary because there are already policies in place that support the issue that’s being debated. Confusing I know, but it’s true.

In this editorial, I said things that will hopefully initiate dialogue about a few things: the issue of choice, the unfair effects of exclusions, and the importance of researching data to support your claim or refute someone else’s.

As citizens we have to be careful of the issues that we focus on because many really aren’t that big of a deal. The current abortion debate is a distraction from the real issue, which is passing a law that ensures everyone has access to quality health care.

I challenge the Senate to focus on issues that strengthen our economy like reforming health care and not spend their time fighting over how abortions should be paid for.

(Reprinted from the Indianapolis Recorder.)

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