The Stupak fight: On the ground in DC

We are lucky to have the following guest post from local Diana Rhodes who attended Lobby Day last week and spoke to our congressional delegation about the Stupak amendment and immigration rights. Take it away Diana!

PASS HEALTH CARE REFORM! STOP STUPAK!

Recently, I was given the opportunity to fly out to Washington D.C., and take part in the STOP STUPAK Lobby Day, organized by a coalition of progressive and women’s healthcare advocacy groups.

First, some background on the coalition, event, and policy in question:

A broad group of advocacy organizations from the progressive and women’s health care communities has joined together to form the Coalition to Pass Health Care Reform and Stop Stupak! The coalition’s goal is to ensure that health care reform is passed and does not restrict women’s ability to purchase private health insurance that provides comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion. The coalition held a D.C. Lobby Day on Wednesday, December 2nd, as part of its National Week of Action, Monday, November 30th – Sunday, December 6th, to ensure that anti-choice Stupak Amendment is not in the final health care reform legislation.

The National Week of Action and the DC Lobby Day on December 2nd brought together advocates from all over the country to communicate clearly to members of Congress that women need health reform that covers all of their health needs, including comprehensive reproductive health care. Since passage, some members of the House who voted for the Stupak amendment have expressed their doubts about this amendment. Notably, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did not include the Stupak language in the health care reform bill he introduced on November 19, and President Obama has indicated that the amendment goes too far.

I traveled to D.C. as a representative of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). As a member of the newly-formed Las Vegas chapter, I was very excited for the opportunity given to me by the D.C. office.

The Lobby Day began with opening remarks from a number of leaders in the reproductive justice movement. After that, with hundreds of participants in the auditorium, we spent some time with basic lobbying and messaging training. Then we were off to put our lobbying training into action! Most organizations had set up meetings with various representatives and senators for the morning and afternoon. As a Las Vegas constituent, I made the rounds to Reid, Titus, and Berkley’s office to urge them to continue their support of a comprehensive health care reform that does not limit women’s access to reproductive care. The staffers in each office were extremely supportive and were also excited to learn more about the coalition of women’s heath care organizations, as well as NAPAWF’s main policy initiatives.

As an organization that not only supports pro-choice policies, but also immigration reform, we had our own talking points on immigration. Mainly, we discussed lifting the 5 year waiting period for legal immigrants’ access to Medicaid; and also the inclusion of undocumented workers in the new health care reform. Though each of the offices were supportive of reproductive access in health care bill, the immigration aspects we discussed were not necessarily met with as much enthusiasm. They listened, sometimes agreed, but we could not get a straight answer on their rep’s position on certain policy initiatives.

Later in the day, we attended the STOP STUPAK rally. The energy at this event was entirely infectious, with roughly 800 people in attendance. The participants came from diverse backgrounds, multiple cities and states, and organizations, with only one mission – to ensure that millions of women do not lose their reproductive care in the new health care reform.

There were speakers from major progressive organizations, with a number of pro-choice congressional representatives. Among them was California representative, Judy Chu, a leader in pro-choice policy initiatives, and the first Chinese-American woman to be elected for Congress.

Again, the trip to D.C. filled me with a renewed fierce feminist spirit. Simply, it’s a great feeling being among so many women fighting for the same cause in our nation’s capital. We were working together. Together as a movement, a fierce feminist movement, that refuses to let lawmakers make decisions about our bodies!

I’ve added a few more points of the Stupak Amendment below, as well as a list of the organizations that participated in the event.

Please visit http://www.stopstupak.com to learn more and receive the latest updates to the health care bill. As of right now, with the controversy surrounding Stupak and the negative press its received, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) announced that he is planning on introducing an amendment to the Senate health care bill that will echo the controversial language of the Stupak amendment.

What exactly is the Stupak Amendment?:

On November 7, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a last-minute anti-choice amendment offered by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI-01) to the House health care reform bill that would effectively ban private abortion coverage for millions of women in the United States, even if they are paying for the full cost of coverage. The Stupak ban violates the most fundamental principle of health care reform — as articulated by President Obama — that no one will lose the benefits they currently have.

The Stupak ban would prohibit any coverage of abortion in the new “exchange,” or marketplace, established by health reform. This ban would apply to both the proposed public option and to private health insurance plans sold in the exchange. The ban would apply if a private plan enrolled even one person who was receiving federal affordability credits to pay her or his premiums. Moreover, Stupak would not allow insurers to sell plans that cover abortion to customers who are paying without a subsidy, if even just one person with a federal subsidy were to purchase the same plan. So, if a plan wanted to offer coverage in the exchange to both groups of individuals, it would have to offer two different plans: one with abortion coverage for women without subsidies, and one without abortion coverage for women with subsidies. Without a doubt, the effect of the Stupak amendment is to ban abortion coverage across the entire exchange, for women who receive subsidies and for women who are paying 100 percent of their premiums with their own money.

The members of the coalition are:

Alliance for Justice; 
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
; American Medical Student Association (AMSA)
; American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA)
; Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP); 
Black Women for Reproductive Justice (BWRJ)
; Black Women’s Health Imperative; 
Campaign for Community Change; 
Catholics for Choice; 
Center for Constitutional Rights 
Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)
; Center for Inquiry
; Center for Reproductive Rights
; Choice USA
; Coalition of Labor Union Women; 
EMILY’s List
; Feminist Majority Foundation
; JAC (Joint Action Committee); 
Latina Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition (LSRJC)
; Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ); 
Maryland Women’s Coalition for Health Care Reform
; Medical Students for Choice; MoveOn.org Political Action
; NARAL Pro-Choice America; 
NARAL Pro-Choice New York; 
National Abortion Federation (NAF); 
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF)
; National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
; National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW); 
National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA)
; National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund; 
National Institute for Reproductive Health
; National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH)
; National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF)
; National Organization for Women (NOW)
; National Partnership for Women and Families
; National Women’s Health Network (NWHN)
; National Women’s Law Center (NWLC)
; National Women’s Political Caucus
; New Prospect Family and Worship Center, Washington DC
; No Limits
; People for the American Way (PFAW)
; Personal PAC; 
Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (PRCH); 
Planned Parenthood; 
Raising Women’s Voices (RWV); 
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC); 
Religious Institute
; Secular Coalition for America; 
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS)
; SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective
; Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
; Women’s Media Center
; YWCA.

About NAPAWF:

NAPAWF is the only national, multi-issue API women’s organization in the country. NAPAWF’s mission is to build a movement to advance social justice and human rights for API women and girls. [www.napawf.org]

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