As part of the landmark reform of the healthcare system in America, a handful of anti-choice Democrats in the US House of Representatives were handed a symbolic victory as President Obama issued an executive order confirming that federal money would not be permitted to fund abortions in return for their votes.
After a long and bitter partisan fight, opponents of abortion rights threatened to derail the entire reform of the American healthcare system by refusing to support President Obama’s flagship domestic policy unless the existing law which prevents federal money being used to fund abortions (the so-called Hyde rule) was extended to affect private healthcare by an amendment supported by Democratic House member Bart Stupak. After pro-choice Democrats successfully removed the Stupak amendment, Rep. Stupak threatened to oppose the entire bill unless an executive order was issued confirming the existing Hyde rule and re-affirming the federal government’s commitment to enforcing it.
Although largely a symbolic victory, women’s organisations in the US are concerned that the executive order will make the ultimate repeal of the Hyde rule more difficult and potentially imposes additional layers of bureaucracy for women seeking to obtain health insurance which includes coverage for abortion. Reacting to the news, the president of NOW, Terry O’Neill said:
“This executive order helps to cement the misconception that the Hyde Amendment is settled law rather than what it really is — an illegitimate tack-on to an annual must-pass appropriations bill. It also sends the outrageous message that it is acceptable to negotiate health care reform on the backs of women…. We call upon President Obama and elected officials in both houses to commit to a process of steady improvement of our health care system that will result in true reform with universal coverage, realistically affordable rates and no discrimination. We still have a lot of work to do before we can genuinely celebrate.”