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The ‘A’ word

Oh, no.


They’ve used the ‘A’ word.

Here’s how to get a law, or at least a bill, passed by politicians: make them work on a Saturday night, as President Obama encouraged last weekend, and tell them they’re not going home until this is DONE.

Result? The House of Representatives passed a health care reform bill by 220 votes to 215.

(Note: ‘a’ health care reform bill not ‘the’ health care reform bill).

Oh, but what’s this?

Earlier the same evening, the same House – under pressure from anti-abortion Democrats and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – passed an amendment to the bill prohibiting federal funds for (here it comes…) abortion.

There’s more. Any women eligible for government tax credits for health insurance will be prevented from using that money to enroll in any private insurance plan that covers abortion.

The amendment has been the number one health care talking point since Saturday’s vote (if you ignore the bizarre display by Rep. John Shadegg who brought an eight-month old baby by the name of Maddy into the House claiming she “believes in freedom and doesn’t want the government to take over health care”).

Democrat Bart Stupak and Republican Joe Pitts, who belong to a secretive fundamentalist Christian group called ‘The Family’, cooked up the latest plan.

The politicians share a townhouse run by The Family with other Christian conservative politicians in Washington DC.

Unsurprisingly, the so-called “Stupak amendment” has opened a box full of contradictions.

The influential (at least, among conservatives) Catholic bishops claim to want universal healthcare for all but, equally, seemingly want to restrict what care women can receive.

Democrat opponents of the amendment (and there are many) but supporters of reform say they will not support any healthcare bill that contains such a clause.

That’s before we get to right-wingers demanding no government role in health care but then supporting a bill in which the government does exactly that.

The bill does allow for what’s called an abortion “rider”, which would be hilarious if it wasn’t so serious.

Stupak claims the rider allows women to purchase extra, stand-alone insurance to cover abortion services.

Just in case, ladies, you are in the unenviable position of having to make a choice you never planned on making nor wanted to make.

As for those on low incomes, well, you’re on your own.

“I laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill,” said President Obama after Saturday’s vote.

Then again, none of this may matter at all.

Some senators claim the House of Reps health care bill is “dead on arrival” in the Senate.


The Senate will draw up its own bill, tack on some material from the House, and send it off to Obama to sign into law.

So all of this could have been a total waste of time except for fans of procedure.

Meanwhile, as religion and personal beliefs influence what could be historic legislation, there’s still war in Iraq and Afghanistan (brought upon by religion, some would argue) and no let up on unemployment figures.

And so it goes.

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