Abort the Executive Order

In the end, passing the healthcare bill was about nothing but abortion and abortion-related deals that will make life all that much harder for women of modest resources facing the (constitutionally-protected) decision to terminate a pregnancy.

“The (Patient Protection and Affordable Care) Act maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly-created health insurance exchanges.”

Barack Obama, President of the United States,

March 21, 2010

This text is from theExecutive Order ensuring enforcement and implementation of abortion restrictions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In Chicago, we call it getting out-hustled. That’s what the President and the Speaker did to their opponents over this weekend; they out-hustled them, in order to get the House of Representatives to pass the President’s healthcare reform bill, the one which, by-the-by, creates new barriers—both federal and state—to American women’s access to reproductive health care.

What does out-hustled mean? Well, in Chicago politics, it means you bust your you-know-what to get what you want, which too often means damn the consequences, most especially those consequences that appear to be (only) niceties, or appear arcane, or appear to affect few, or most-of all, obscure the message of ever-so-needed victory, any victory, if-it-comes-to-that.

But, in out-hustling their opposition, the President and the Speaker forsook the women of America; for they decided, by-the-by, that it was OK to make life–life hard enough already–all that much harder for women of modest resources when they face, for most, the hardest decision of life, the (constitutionally-protected) decision to terminate a pregnancy.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote in these pages regarding the Speaker’s specious claim that “This (the healthcare reform bill) is not about abortion,” 

To the contrary, I said, and I was proved right (keep reading): Getting the healthcare bill passed was going to be  “…about nothing but abortion.”

Of course, the Speaker knew this, too: She’d known this at least since last November when she called the Stupak Amendment for a vote, and it passed.

In fact, the Speaker’s statement to the contrary was just pure political ploy—typically political in that, in its narrowest fact context, it was true– the bill was and is about lots of aspects of healthcare, not just about abortion—but, equally typically political, false regarding the politics of getting the bill passed.

And that’s exactly what happened. Getting the healthcare bill passed was about nothing but abortion; at the end, it was about nothing but abortion-related deals; deals that, to boot, weren’t just any old deals, but deals with the President, his own self, to coin another Chicago term-of-art.

Indeed, Mr. I-used-to-can’t-stand-what-the-President-stands-for-if he’s-for-choice Stupak, of all people, got himself a little ole Executive Order, all about abortion.

And, lo and behold, once he got it, the Speaker got Mr. Stupak’s vote, and the bill passed.

Sometimes, being right doesn’t bring much satisfaction with it. Girl: Is that true this time.

For “…about nothing but abortion” turns out to mean that Washington will moot this women’s right with hardly a passing glance: Need an Executive Order, no problema; come on over and negotiate with my lawyers.

Need an Executive Order, no problema; let’s go right ahead and negotiate an Executive Order that no Democratic, nor, for that matter, any Republican, President has ever offered up; a document that Presidentially codifies a law whose sole purpose is to deny poor, and now middle-class (for the healthcare reform bill subsidizes middle-class families’ health insurance, too), women the same access to reproductive health care that wealthy women have.

Need an Executive Order, no problema; let’s just go right ahead and codify that Hyde Amendment in an Executive Order. And, while we’re at it, let’s go ahead and expand the reach of Mr. Hyde’s Amendment; expand it by extending its provisions to those new healthcare exchanges, all fifty of them; those health exchanges already a disaster for women, for what insurer in his right mind is going to want to tussle with local-pol-healthcare regulators regarding the right insure abortion and the right to undertake all kinds of new accounting procedures just to have the privilege of insuring a woman’s abortion. Exactly none.

Need an Executive Order, no problema:  We’ll just blithely ignore the constitutional complications here.

But wait: This Executive Order is about a matter that only affects, maybe, a couple- million-max American women annually. What’s the big deal? Won’t we be able to fix whatever all might be wrong with it later?

I say  “no,” for both policy and political reasons.

Here’s my take on one important policy reason: American history has shown over, and over, and over again that policies sacrificing or mooting constitutional rights, for the supposed “greater good,” are never sacrifices that protect the rights of women, minorities, the poor, or anyone else who doesn’t have the ability to buy her way into the offices of D.C. power brokers, and change powerbrokers’ minds.

What’s next: Sacrificing the notion that creationism is poppycock in order to get the votes of conservative Texas Democrats for education reform?  Sacrificing Miranda rights in the name of security when anyone with a plastic knife and training in martial arts can cause chaos on any airplane?

As to the political reasons, let’s start here, with this morning’s message from one leader of a big D.C. women’s group.  Here’s what she sent along:

“And once that work (Senate passage of the healthcare reform bill) is done, you and I will insist that Congress take the necessary steps to reverse the appalling anti-choice provisions contained in health reform and render the President’s Executive Order null and void.”

I could scream with frustration. But that’s not the point.  Here is the point. Actually, there are two (points).

Politics Rule One: In the words of Frederick Douglass, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

You can insist forever; you can insist till the cows come home; meanwhile, the cows, and all the horses, besides, are out of the barn.

You can, and losers do, “insist,” while those horses run to another barn, a barn whose doors are dead-bolt locked when you try to enter.

Not a plan, that “insisting” thing.

By contrast, as Douglass pointed-out, “demanding” is a plan; demanding without standing down till you get what you want is a really, really good plan, when the chips are down.

So, here’s a corollary to Politics Rule One:  Don’t get out-hustled, if your goal is winning.

Why, exactly, did the Speaker insist, “This isn’t about abortion.”

Why? Because she knew that when D-Day (decision day) came, she would do whatever she needed to do, to make the bill’s passage appear to have nothing to do with abortion, or, if about abortion in some way, only in a way that appeared innocuous, e.g., as it then happened, accompanied by an Executive Order that meets this threshold, (supposedly).

To this supposed point, catch these words of Dan Pfeiffer, White House Communications Director:   The President has said from the start that this health insurance reform should not be the forum to upset longstanding precedent. The health care legislation and this executive order are consistent with this principle.

The pro-choice Members obliged. Oh, the bill doesn’t include ‘Stupak;’ oh, OK, we’ll vote for that.

At no time in the course of the Speaker’s march to “wreckonciliation” for poor American women did these Members stand up, and do like Stupak did:  March anywhere, and demand a deal on their terms, the terms their female constituents and millions of other American women need.

Instead, they obliged, and then, blithely, declared victory: We fought back Stupak, as though the Stupak Amendment language were, or could be, the only language used to sacrifice the rights of American women. Well, the President, Speaker, and Mr. Stupak sure proved you wrong on that one.

Out-hustled means you think faster; do harder; stand on that proverbial street corner 24-7, and do what you need to do every minute of everyday. You don’t take people’s words at face value—you negotiate your own terms and your own words.

This is what real “players” do, to use a related Chicago term. They do what Bart Stupak did. They demand to be heard by those in power, in their presence, offer up nothing till they are (heard, in that room), and then get their deal in writing.

Didn’t happen; power conceded nothing ‘cause this wasn’t done, and we women are the worse for it.

But wait, there is one more chance:  Abort the Executive Order.

Of course, this would mean that since the nefarious deed is done, the Executive Order would now have to be rescinded.

No biggie: The President knows signing it was a bad idea (why else would he have prohibited press at the signing; he wasn’t proud of this one).

So, all you Democratic women Senators, who now sit in the catbird’s seat (Harry Reid can’t move without you; just like, apparently, Nancy Pelosi couldn’t move without Bart Stupak); do like Bart did: Walk on over to the White House. But tell the President you want Bart’s Executive Order rescinded.

Senators, for the sake of your less fortunate sisters, please tell the President you can’t abide his Executive Order that everyone in D.C. now understands does change the law and, as a practical matter, will make abortion unavailable. Senators, for the sake of your less fortunate sisters, tell the President you’re not into wreckonciliation; you’re not into wrecking the lives of the American women who most need your help.

“When faced with crisis, we did not shrink from our challenge — we overcame it. We did not avoid our responsibility — we embraced it. We did not fear our future — we shaped it.

These are the President’s beautiful words of last night.

Well, Mr. President: Sadly, you did shrink from your most important challenge—to create equality for all Americans, for all women.

Mr. President: On this point, I call your attention to the words of another great American orator; again, I quote Frederick Douglas.

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”