President Obama would not be where he is today without the support of women who believed him when he said he was pro-choice.
At least, he said that when he was presidential candidate Barack Obama. Yet his administration hasn't followed through with many of his campaign trail promises, and initial steps in a pro-choice direction have been reversed by subsequent actions.
The latest of them, according to NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) is the decision to exclude abortion coverage from "high-risk pools" -- a newly created program for individuals with pre-existing conditions or other high-risk medical needs.
Within these pools, abortions would only be covered in the cases of rape, incest, or if the pregnancy threatened the life of the mother. The high-risk pools are being set up as a transitional program as the federal government establishes its much-touted health-insurance exchanges which will go into effect in 2014.
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, had this to say about the decision to exclude abortion:
"Abortion is the most common surgical procedure women receive....This policy means that women who are part of these pools because they have significant health problems, such as diabetes or cancer, will not be able to access abortion care, even if their health is at further risk. This decision puts in place a three-year restriction that is similar to the proposal from Rep. Bart Stupak that was rejected during the legislative debate on health reform."
The president's decision to back away from his earlier positions is profoundly frustrating to women who voted for him assuming he'd be a strong advocate for reproductive rights. I'm checking in with other prominent pro-choice women and hope to have additional reactions later on today.
Addendum My disappointment is shared by two women on the front lines of protecting choice.
From Gloria Feldt, author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power and former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
Outraged about Obama's de facto implementation of the Stupak amendment? Well get this: They have also excluded birth control from the first iteration of the new health plan! Women are 52% of the voters and up to 60% of voters who support Democrats. We have the power to rise up and hold Obama to his campaign promises. And now is the time to do it. No excuses and no fair complaining about the result if we fail to do so.
And from the Rev. Debra Haffner, Director of the Religious Institute, a multifaith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual health, education, and justice in faith communities and society:
The President's action yesterday is extremely disheartening to those of us who believed that he would be consistently pro-choice in his actions. It was neither required by law or policy, but instead seems to be calculated to assuage those who would separate reproductive health services, including legal, safe abortion services from health care to those most in need. As a pro-choice religious leader, I believe that abortion is a moral decision and that it must not only be safe and legal, but accessible to all.