So close – oh, so close. They may look like reasonable bills with bipartisan support, but both the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) and the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) legislation, also known as the “doc fix,” are Trojan horses for enshrining into law anti-choice restrictions on abortion funding and coverage.
The addition of these restrictions on abortion coverage and funding are clearly part of a concerted effort by anti-choice politicians to expand the reach of the Hyde Amendment wherever they can. The Hyde Amendment, which denies low-income women coverage for abortion care, is renewed on a yearly basis, yet thankfully it has not been enacted into law. Beyond the inherent injustice of the Hyde Amendment, the intention behind these provisions in the SGR and JVTA is to codify this type of language, making harmful and unjust restrictions on reproductive health care more difficult to repeal.
This is a continuation of a larger pattern of politicians interfering with reproductive decision-making by pushing abortion out of reach for as many people as possible. Anti-abortion politicians can’t make abortion illegal, so instead they are doing all they can to make it unaffordable and unavailable. Their strategy is to put amendments on every bill, and they are willing to hold up this necessary human trafficking bill, budget bills, and even the Attorney General nomination over it. This is not good public policy; and it is certainly not good health care. It is dangerous and mean- spirited anti-choice politics, plain, but not so simple.
Politicians who believe that a woman’s income should dictate whether she can get the full spectrum of reproductive health care do not have the best interests of women, their families, or our country at heart. Studies show that when policymakers place severe restrictions on Medicaid coverage of abortion, it forces one in four poor women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. For a person coming out of the traumatic experience of trafficking to find anti-choice restrictions on how she can access reproductive health care is just one more way that her agency is taken from her. How arrogant for some politicians to assume that they know what is right for her! As a nation we should do all we can to help victims of trafficking to get back on their feet, helping them to make the best decisions for their own lives. When someone’s agency has been taken away, as it has been for these people, to be further victimized by grandstanding politicians is literally adding insult to injury.
Choice should be free of political interference
Progressive people of faith all over Minnesota and throughout the United States understand that human agency is fundamental to all religious traditions. To be able to make our own decisions about the most basic aspects of our lives, like when and whether to become a parent, should be free of political interference. Anti-choice activists who support these restrictions say that they are following scripture. While there is no Judeo Christian scripture that prohibits abortion, there are many that command society and individuals to care for those who live on the economic margins. Prophets and teachers in every tradition call us to lift up people experiencing poverty. In my tradition we believe in a strong separation between church and state, but we also value honesty and consistency in public discourse and policy.
As a pastor with several years of experience working in the field of reproductive health care, I have never once heard a woman say that she wishes a politician had been available to help her make intimate decisions. I have heard women speak with their pastors and rabbis, their family and doctors, and in prayerful discernment with the God of their understanding. This is as it should be.
Minnesotans are fortunate to be represented by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, both longtime faithful advocates for women’s reproductive decision-making. Progressive people of faith in Minnesota and throughout the country call upon them to continue to stand firm for all women and families, especially those who struggle to make ends meet, to keep this dangerous precedent-setting and mean-spirited language out of legislation that is designed to help and not to hurt.
We’re so close. Let’s get it right.
The Rev. Kelli Clement is the Social Justice Minister of the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis.
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