On Reasons

11 Aug

The exhausting debate that started over 30 years ago with the Hyde Amendment about tax dollars being used to fund abortion has reared its ugly head for what seems like the thousandth time in the past year. First we had mumblings about abortion coverage in health care reform. Then we had Our Dear President sternly pronounce that of course no tax dollars would fund abortions in front of the Senate, House, Supreme Court, and the nation.  Then we had Stupak-Pitts, the Capps compromise, Nelson-Hatch, and the Executive Order signed behind closed doors by the Chosen One in a tacit acknowledgement that his victory in procuring Secure, Affordable Health Care for All (except women needing abortions*) came at a devastating cost to women.  Now, in the past few
weeks, we have seen a regulation of high-risk insurance pools that will prevent women from using their own money to purchase insurance that would pay for abortions, a bill introduced in the House with the goal of codifying Hyde, and a bill introduced in the Senate that appears to want to retroactively apply the Stupak restrictions to the health reform bill.

The bottom line is that women will be prevented from having their insurance pay for an abortion, even if they purchase that insurance entirely with their own funds.  Our legislators want to assure us, however, that they are not bad people.  Women who have a Very Good (or Pretty Good) Reason will not be forced to come up with somewhere between $500 and $100,000 should they need an abortion.  Somewhere along the way it became accepted that the following is a Very Good Reason: endangerment to the life of the female vessel to the Fetus (heretofore referred to as The Vessel).  Under the original Hyde Amendment, she had to have a Very Good Reason.  Later on, when the Hyde Amendment was modified, a Pretty Good Reason was sufficient.
Those reasons qualifying as Pretty Good Reasons include: being a victim of rape or incest or threat to the health of The Vessel.

If a woman has an OK Reason or a Bad Reason she is generally out of luck.  An OK Reason would be that a health condition is made worse by the pregnancy.  In this case The Vessel would usually not have to pay for the abortion, unless the health condition is mental illness, in which case The Vessel is either using the mental illness as an excuse to get the abortion paid for or is too mentally ill to make the decision on her own.  In either case, the appropriate reaction is to punish her either by making her come up with the money on her own or by carrying the pregnancy to term.

Another OK Reason would be a situation in which the Fetus had an anomaly.  Many people feel comfortable with this OK Reason because the Fetus was “wanted” and therefore it was not the fault of The Vessel that she wanted to end the pregnancy.  Since she is not at fault, there is no need for punishment; many insurance policies will pay for an abortion in this situation.  Policies for federal employees will not.**

A woman with a Bad Reason will generally have to pay for an abortion if she wants one.  A Bad Reason could include any or all of the following: The Vessel is too young for children, The Vessel cannot afford to have a child, The Vessel already has a child and cannot afford another, The Vessel has no emotional support, The Vessel wants to finish school, The Vessel is trying to quit drugs, The Vessel will get thrown out of her parents’ house if they find out she’s pregnant, The Vessel forgot to use a condom, The Vessel forgot to take her birth control pill, The Vessel had her tubes tied and still got pregnant, the Vessel trades sex for food or shelter and doesn’t have a choice about whether a condom is used or not, The Vessel does not want to be pregnant.

The common thread?  Blame, guilt, fault.  We apportion access to abortion based on our perception of culpability.  Just about anyone with insurance will get an abortion paid for if she has either a Very Good or a Pretty Good Reason.  Some women with insurance will also get an abortion paid for if they have a Good or OK reason.  A woman who has a Bad Reason is often left to her own devices to pay for the procedure because it’s perceived to be her fault that she’s pregnant and doesn’t want to be (whereas in the other cases there are some kind of extenuating circumstances that mitigate her culpability).

I’m actually going to make all of this much, much easier.  Rather than spending so much time deciding which reasons are worthy of payment for abortion and which aren’t, I propose that there is one very good reason to choose an abortion, and it’s the only one necessary: Not wanting to be pregnant.

A woman has a right to decide what she wants for her body.  If she doesn’t want to be a vessel to another being, whether it’s a blastocyst, an embryo, or a fetus, she has a right to decide not to be.  She has a right to decide that she values her health and well-being, and we have no right to attempt to dissuade her otherwise by punitive measures, whether they be harassment at the clinic she goes to for the abortion or by expecting her to pay large sums of money.

I’ve had enough of this multi-tiered approach to abortion funding and I’ve had enough of the blaming and shaming that goes with it. Abortion is a legal, necessary medical procedure and anyone who doesn’t want to be pregnant, for any reason, should be able to get one.

*and undocumented immigrants, and people who still make too much for Medicaid and not enough for insurance
**In the uncommon situation that the fetus has died in utero, in which case it is covered

8 Responses to “On Reasons”

  1. KiaJD August 11, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

    Sorry that this comment is unrelated to the piece above. Love the site but I have a recommendation – the light grey text is sort of difficult to read. The site would be more accessible if it were darker.

    Keep up the good work! Thanks.

  2. Margaret August 11, 2010 at 4:05 pm #

    I’d like to add to the ‘Bad Reason’ list: used birth control and it failed, and was technically raped, but by husband/boyfriend and so won’t use that term with officials for fear of repercussions to said husband/boyfriend — therefore, assumption is consensual.

    As a side: my pregnancy was uncomplicated and my birth went smoothly up until the end, when I almost died due to a rare and completely unpredictable complication. So as I see it, being pregnant = risk to life of mother, regardless of likelihood. I happen to agree with your reason-shouldn’t-matter approach, but I think you can argue against people who do believe reason matters with the point that all pregnancies can potentially cause death, so the woman has a right to decided if she wants to take that risk.

  3. Steph August 11, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

    @ KiaJD: thanks for the feedback! working on it now.

  4. placenta sandwich August 12, 2010 at 1:18 am #

    BRAVA, this is exactly right and really well-written. Thank you!

  5. Not Guilty August 12, 2010 at 9:35 am #

    This Vessel is glad she lives in Ontario, Canada where the reason never matters.

  6. NYCprochoiceMD August 12, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    @Margaret Thank you– I agree with you entirely on all points. The reasons a woman might choose abortion outside of the narrow definitions of “rape” (whose definition itself is problematic, as you suggest) or tangible threat to life or health are innumerable. And you are correct to point out that any woman who chooses to continue a pregnancy chooses to risk her life in so doing. Many women gladly choose to continue pregnancy despite the discomforts and potentially serious risks involved, but to suggest that anyone should be forced to risk her life, regardless of the reason she ended up in the situation of having to decide, is unfair, and to coerce her decision by withholding funds, telling lies, or placing legal restrictions on the procedure is unconscionable.


  1. Tweets that mention On Reasons | Abortion Gang -- Topsy.com - August 11, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sharon, NNAF Abortion Funds. NNAF Abortion Funds said: But do you have a GOOD REASON that you deserve medical care? Great piece by @NYCprochoiceMD on @abortiongang http://bit.ly/8XdRlC […]

  2. Lying about abortion: Accurate information without exception | Abortion Gang - May 16, 2012

    […] does this upset me?  I and others on this blog, as well as on other blogs, have written recurrently about this concept of […]

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