More Creeping Religious Rightism in the Democratic Party
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Dec 12, 2009 at 04:06:06 PM EST
I was more than a little suprised. Although I have been around politics and reported on the adventures of the Religious Right and society's difficulties in understanding and coping with this powerful movement for many years, even I was gobsmacked by this one.  

Beltway Insiders including the president had determined that the historic anti-abortion Hyde Amendment (which, renewed annually, proscribes the use of federal funds to pay for abortion, primarily via Medicaid) is the moderate, compromise, "abortion neutral" position when discussing health care reform.  "How," I wondered, "did the most significant anti-abortion legislation in history become a moderate compromise?"  I reported on this at the webzine Religion Dispatches this week (and diaried about it at Daily Kos).

One may agree or disagree with the president and other Washington insiders that this was the only way to get health care reform passed. But whatever the outcome of the health care debate, what has been sacrificed should not go unnoticed and unremarked upon. And indeed, leaders on both sides are recognizing the magnitude of what has occurred.

I am not going to repeat myself except to underscore my point that
The gradual adoption of the principles of the most significant anti-abortion legislation in history as a moderate compromise constitutes a stunning shift in American political and religious life, and raises fundamental questions about whether society views abortion care as part of health care and about its commitment to the right to choose an abortion, as it points to a significant double standard for poor women.

Anti-abortion militant Jill Stanek for one, noticed my pointing out the historic shift in the thinking of official Washington regarding Hyde as an "abortion neutral" approach to public policy. In a blog post titled "Victory we didn't notice: Pro-abort acceptance of Hyde Amendment as "abortion neutral", she wrote:

At ReligiousDispatches.org, pro-abort Frederick Clarkson got half his premise wrong, claiming pro-lifers are reaching beyond the Hyde Amendment in our fight to prohibit public funded abortions in healthcare. But Clarkson made a fascinating point, one I think most of us missed...

I think Clarkson is absolutely right. In the thick of the battle, we didn't see this concession. Although I've read recent calls from the abortion industry to rescind Hyde, which is reperilized every year, it will be that much more difficult here on out, since so many pro-aborts, most importantly Obama, have labeled it abortion-neutral.

In fact, these concessions might have brought permanent passage of the Hyde Amendment that much closer.

Gloria Feldt, former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) sees the situation similarly. Reacting to my article at the new web site Not Under the Bus, dedicated to fighting back against the errosion of reproductive rights, she commented:  

I'm appalled that the president, Congress, pro-choice organizations, and as a result the media are calling the current Hyde amendment restrictions on abortion coverage an acceptable compromise.
 
Amidst all the hoo ha about whether or not the Stupak amendment will make it into the final health care bill; and whether it expands the reach of the Hyde Amendment; lost in the debate has been the compromise that has already been made, and at what cost to whom. (I discuss this further in my article.)

Clearly to those of us on all sides who have followed this over the years, the evolution of the Hyde Amendment from being seen as strident anti-abortionism -- to being accepted as abortion neutral public policy -- is really just astounding.  The significance of this shift merits far more discussion than it has received so far.

(Also being discussed at Daily Kos.)




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