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Feminists do not horse-trade women’s rights to care for their bodies for Republican votes

(cross-posted at Heidi Li’s Potpourri)

A week or so into our new Presidential administration, and the strange sensation of living in a universe that only partially intersects that of many people I would formerly have have considered obvious political allies continues. Starting yesterday and on through today I began receiving messages from blogger friends and then from NOW-NY and then Planned Parenthood, that something very strange seemed to be happening with the economic stimulus bill. Apparently President Obama (who neither NOW nor Planned Parenthood can bring themselves to name as part of the problem, although Planned Parenthood does suggest calling the White House (see additional Conflucian posts here and here)) and Congressional Democrats are willing to curry votes from Republicans on the Hill by cutting the Medicaid Family Planning State Option from the stimulus package the Congress is hoping to have ready for presidential signing by mid-Februrary. The Medicaid Family Planning State option is a provision that would provide health care coverage for 2.3 million low-income women, according to Planned Parenthood, by “allow[ing] states to expand their Medicaid family planning services, including cancer screenings and other preventive care, to more women in need, without having to go through the burdensome Medicaid waiver process.” Or as the National Women’s Law Center puts it, “In a disappointing move, the economic recovery package will not include a provision to make it easier for states to make family planning services more accessible and affordable to the millions of women and families who depend on them. The Medicaid Family Planning State Option would have allowed states to expand Medicaid eligibility for family planning services without having to obtain a federal waiver.”  Meanwhile, when I went to look at the January 28 New York Times print edition to for details, I found no mention of this ditching of the Family Planning option until deep into one of the three stories on the stimulus package, mentioned in passing in a vague paragraph on page A16 of the Washington print edition of the Times:

As the House version of the legislation came to the floor on Tuesday, Democrats stripped from it a provision that Republicans had ridiculedas having nothing to do with economic stimulus, one expanding federal Medicaid coverage of family planning services. (The Congressional Budget Office had estimated that the provision would actually save the government $200 million over five years by reducing pregnancy and postnatal-care expenses.)

Then, as I sat down to compose my thoughts about this latest bit of chicanery over women’s bodies, things turned a bit more surreal. Apparently, despite its reported spike in subscriptions, Ms. Magazine has enough leftover editions of its inaugural issue – you know, the one with this patently ridiculous cover, to just today be offering me more “one more chance” to own the cover in poster size.


Please note: no way in hell does a feminist look like a person who is willing to horse-trade funds for family planning benefits under Medicaid to placate Republicans, who will do anything to beat back money for family planning which they are trying as quickly as possible to turn into an epithet. Family planning is a good idea. So is birth control in most people’s lives. So, in some cases, is access to safe and legal abortion. Family planning, birth control, access to safe and legal abortions: these are not dirty words. They are real world, practical options – options needed, at least as options, by all women if they are to be truly autonomous actors in our society; and therefore options that must be as available to those whose health insurance is provided by the government as to those whose insurance is provided by private insurers.

Here’s a little trick used by many who teach property law across the country. Most first year law students arrive in their Property Law courses with two visions of what property is: either the stuff they just put away in their dorm rooms or a field in the country somewhere. So we law professors often start by telling them that no,that isn’t property at all. What property really is, is the set of entitlements and rights any particular person or the state has to control or use the stuff they just put their dorm rooms or the field in the country. In other words, property is a bundle of say-so’s over what happens to the bits and pieces in the world. Continue reading