If you are reading this blog from a computer or phone within the United States, you are well aware that health care reform debates are coming to a head. The latest controversy over just how, and for whom, health care reform will become institutionalized comes in the form of the Stupak amendment, which the The Wall Street Journal describes as “a last-minute amendment toughening abortion restriction in the House health-care bill….” backed by “(t)he U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a powerful force behind the strong abortion language in the House.”  Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal also reports that “Planned Parenthood …. has started a petition drive that has been promoted by Cosmopolitan magazine,” and that  “(a)ctivists hope to flood Washington to rally and lobby on Dec. 2, during the week that Senate floor debate begins.”

A protester in Los Angeles last Friday

To better understand this issue from the perspective of reproductive and sexual justice activists, I turned to a former student of mine, Courtney Bell. Courtney received her M.A. in Public Policy from the University of Washington, Bothell in 2008 and is currently working as a Public Affairs Field Organizer for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest.


Message Number Three

by Courtney Bell

As a community organizer for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, I have had the privilege of joining our supporters on the front lines of the debate over health care reform these past few months. Together, we have generated thousands of contacts into the offices of our members of Congress, expressing support for reproductive health care and advocating for its inclusion as part of any basic health care package.

And it’s been a bumpy ride. When Planned Parenthood Federation of America kicked off our organizing campaign for Health Care Reform early last summer, we had three primary messages to convey:

  1. Reproductive health care must be included in any health care reform package. Reproductive health care is basic health care and real reform includes women’s health.
  2. Essential community providers must be included in health plan networks so that patients can access health care from the trusted providers in their communities.
  3. Women must not be worse off after health care reform than they are today.

When I first heard Message #3, I thought to myself, “Duh! Isn’t that kind of a no-brainer of a goal to be working toward? Surely, if health care reform is passed, this is the only outcome to be expected.” I knew that health care reform was all about expanded access to care for millions of people, and currently there are more than 17 million women in the United States who are uninsured.

But now, having participated in three chaotic and infuriating (read: teabagger) Health Care Reform town halls in Western Washington, countless nationwide phone banks, and two advocacy days on the Hill in Washington DC over the past few months, I see that clearly, Message #3 has become our paramount concern. On November 8th, the House passed its version of Health Care Reform with the inclusion of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment. Under this amendment, millions of women will lose access to private insurance coverage for abortion care. And as reported in a study by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, “the treatment exclusions required under the Stupak/Pitts Amendment will have an industry-wide effect, eliminating coverage of medically indicated abortions over time for all women, not only those whose coverage is derived through a health insurance exchange.”

It has been a founding principle of Health Care Reform, as articulated by President Obama, that no one will lose the benefits they currently have. Make no mistake: this is exactly what will happen if the Stupak-Pitts Amendment makes it into the final version of the bill.

Fortunately, the Senate version of Health Care Reform currently excludes this disastrous language. We must do all that we can to ensure that when the final bill comes before our President for a signature, it is one that respects our fundamental rights.


If you are interested in joining Planned Parenthood in this fight to ensure that women will not be worse off after health care reform than they are today, Courtney offers three action plans:

1. Sign the petition to President Obama, Majority Leader Reid, and Speaker Pelosi. It’s the first step to stopping the Stupak ban and protecting women’s access to abortion coverage.

2. Join Planned Parenthood in DC on December 2 for a National Lobby Day, when Planned Parenthood and allies will be taking this message straight to Congress.

3. Read the Issue Brief: Impact of Stupak Amendment on Access to Abortion Coverage and Care and share with others.


Additional readings from reproductive health and justice experts on the Stupak amendment: