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Why “inconsequential” isn’t an argument

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, November 18, 2009 23:47 EDT
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The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services has released a report demonstrating that progressives weren’t kidding around when we said that the Stupak-Pitts amendment was going to deprive all insured women of abortion coverage over time.

The report concludes that “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.”

In other words, though the immediate impact of the Stupak amendment will be limited to the millions of women initially insured through a new insurance exchange, over time, as the exchanges grow, the insurance industry will scale down their abortion coverage options until they offer none at all.

What’s interesting about the debate over impact is not that it will have such a large impact, or that it was intended to. What is interesting is that anti-choicers are trying to minimize the effects of this amendment in the first place, necessitating such a response. This is because they have a larger strategy of trying to mainstream misogynist policies, and position them as minor “compromises” to be made as little treats thrown to buy off the religious right. (Sarah Posner has an interesting rundown of how this worked with Stupak-Pitts here.) Because they’re all so damn eager to lie for Jesus, the troops have picked up the message and started to run with it. Even in the comments at Pandagon, we have forced birthers putting forward the puzzling argument that Stupak-Pitts is inconsequential, and we shouldn’t worry our pretty little heads about it.

If you think about it, though, this position makes no fucking sense whatsoever. If it’s inconsequential, why fight for it? Aren’t anti-choicers supposed to be motivated by their enduring love for innocent, mindless fetal life? Then they should be, if this is inconsequential, in the streets mourning the fact that this will not save a single life for a single fetus. They failed miserably, if this is inconsequential. After all, they hit the streets They freaked out and made fools of themselves in the Senate. They lobbied like crazy. They got Bart Stupak to hold up the bill. They made this whole thing a center stage issue, despite pro-choice attempts to keep the bill abortion neutral. They shouldn’t be defending this amendment, if it’s inconsequential. They should be its loudest critics.

Instead, they’re celebrating this and defending it. Even though their bizarro defense is that it’s not going to have a big impact.

I personally try to avoid wasting my time on pushing for ineffective, inconsequential legislation. That we expect the anti-choice movement to feel differently is kind of odd, though some of the pro-choicers making the “not that big a deal” argument apparently do feel that anti-choicers are unique in that sense. I can sort of see their point of view, since anti-choicers are part of the bigger reactionary forces in the culture war, and what these people want above all other things is to stick it to liberals. Which means that no matter what the actual impact on women’s lives the Stupak-Pitts amendment has, they’re happy, because they win and we lose and they get to act like assholes about it, which is their main goal.

But I’m far from convinced. Anti-choicers are, after all, dedicated misogynists. They’re not going to be satisfied with merely hurting the feelings of feminists, or being annoying. If their actions don’t create a bottom-line degradation in the quality of life for women nationwide, they’re really not that interested. We’re talking about people who loathe sexually active women so much that they stake out women’s health clinics to scream at them. That’s not the behavior of people who just like getting a rise out of liberals. This amendment was written and supported because it’s going to have a big negative impact on women’s well-being. And make no mistake about it.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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