NEW YORK — For some abortion-rights activists, the debate over health care reform has been frustrating, even disheartening, as they see their political allies on the defensive and their anti-abortion rivals on the attack.
The crux of the dispute is reflected in the slogan adopted by many anti-abortion activists, “Abortion is Not Health Care.” The abortion-rights movement says the procedure should indeed be considered a valid health care option, as worthy of public funding as any other form of care.
Many abortion-rights advocates had hoped the health care debate would include a serious discussion of expanding access to abortion for low-income women, including the possible lifting of a 33-year-old ban on federal funding for the procedure except in cases of rape, incest and to save the mother’s life.
Instead, under pressure from anti-abortion conservatives, the Obama administration and majority Democrats in Congress have generally focused their recent public comments about abortion on promises that their various reform proposals will conform with that ban, known as the Hyde Amendment.
“I’m profoundly disappointed,” said Stephanie Poggi of the National Network of Abortion Funds, which helps low-income women pay for abortions. “We felt health care reform is supposed to be about expanding care, not expanding inequality.”
Terry O’Neill, the newly elected president of the National Organization for Women, said Democrats have been too willing to compromise, adding, “It makes me really angry.”
“They’re just wrong if they think compromise on abortion will bring more Republicans on board,” she said. “The voices insisting upon exclusion of abortion services will not vote for meaningful reform anyway.”