A couple of months ago, I wasted a half-hour of my life listening in on a town hall conference call with my congresscritter, Charlie Wilson. Amid all of his reassurances to reactionary constituents that he wouldn’t sign off on death panels, he kept repeating: “I am a Blue Dog Democrat. I am pro-life.” This weekend, he delivered on that promise by becoming one of the 64 Democrats who sold out women’s health by voting for the Stupak amendment to the House healthcare bill.
In case you didn’t hear, the Stupak amendment will prevent all private insurers who participate in the new insurance exchanges from covering abortion as part of their basic benefits package. As a result, millions of women who currently have abortion coverage will lose it, unless the Stupak amendment is removed during the process of reconciling the House and Senate bills.
I thought about posting on this yesterday but I wasn’t up for writing anything because I was dealing with pain. I have suffered from this particular pain since I delivered my first baby. For the first couple of years, it was my constant companion. After I had a second baby, it receded to a day or two every month. It is not the normal pain that women get with their period. It is the direct result of structural damage done by childbirth.
So instead of blogging yesterday, I took half a Vicodin, cranked up my heating pad, and waited for the day to end.
I am lucky in that I don’t suffer from stress incontinence. You know all those boxes of Poise and Depends in the supermarket? That market is much, much larger than the elderly. Plenty of young women use them, too, thanks to damage incurred during pregnancy and childbirth. Incontinence is a serious risk factor in elderly women for landing in a nursing home. Just over 11 percent of all women will have surgery to repair damage to their pelvic floor at some time during their lives. About 12 percent of these women will undergo repeat surgeries after the first one fails.
These days, American women count on surviving pregnancy. But that doesn’t mean childbirth has become risk-free. Just in my acquaintance, I have one friend who acquired a serious postpartum infection, another who suffered a stroke after giving birth, and a college classmate who died of eclampsia.
It’s one thing to undergo the health risks of pregnancy when you deeply want a child. It’s quite another to be forced to bear a child – and the attendant risks -against your will.
This is why any healthcare package that reduces women’s access to safe, legal, and affordable abortion isn’t reform. It’s a blow to women’s health. It should not be negotiable – especially by congresscritters like my own who will never, ever have to put their health on the line in an unwanted pregnancy.