The Constitution’s framers did everything in their power to prohibit religion from imposing its will on the government, and although Christians have attempted to circumvent the prohibition since the country’s founding, America has remained a secular nation. During the 1980s, Ronald Reagan changed the equation and gave the Religious Right inroads into the government and after 30 years, America is nearer than ever to becoming a theocracy. Leading the charge to change America to a theocracy are conservative Christians in Congress and they are finally close to imposing their biblical edicts on the entire population. As usual with Christian extremists, they have assailed women’s rights first because the male-dominated society holds females in such low regard, and state and federal legislatures are predominately male, that they have little opposition to force their Draconian anti-women legislation through Congress unimpeded. Yesterday, House Republicans forced a vote on one such bill.
The Protect Life Act (H.R. 358) is a misnomer of epic proportion because the bill does not protect life and ultimately condemns women in need of a lifesaving abortion to death. The bill is meant to restrict women from receiving abortion services if the medical care is associated with the Affordable Care Act, but it is much more than that. What that means is that if a health plan is part of an exchange involved with the ACA and offers abortion services, a hospital, doctor, clinic, or any health professional can refuse to treat the patient. Not only can health professionals refuse to treat a woman needing an abortion, it also relieves them from referring or transferring the woman to an institution that will provide treatment. The bill, introduced by Joe Pitts (R-Pa) and co-sponsored by 145 anti-choice legislators is an imposition of biblical edicts and affects more than just women seeking abortion services.
According to the text of the bill, it is illegal for federal funds to be used to cover any part of the cost of a health insurance plan that includes abortion coverage whether or not it is purchased privately. So, if a family pays for health insurance through an employer or an exchange, if the plan offers abortion coverage, no federal funds can be used. If a single father with 3 children buys health insurance through one of the exchanges or his employer’s plan, if it offers abortion services, he is not allowed to receive assistance because the plan includes abortion coverage. It is a backdoor plan to force insurance carriers to eliminate abortion coverage as well as allowing Republicans to control private insurance. So much for Republicans’ unregulated free market mantra.
There are already two provisions on the books to prohibit federal funds from being used for abortions, but that is not enough for conservative Christians. Their goal is to force the insurance industry to eliminate any abortion services from any policy regardless if the service is used or not and regardless if private funds are used to purchase coverage. However, the federal funding issue notwithstanding, it is a dangerous bill that dooms women’s lives and their right to choose.
According to Federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTLA), any hospital or medical professional cannot refuse to treat a patient if they are unable to pay, and minimally, they have to stabilize the patient and transfer them to a facility that can provide treatment regardless the medical emergency. The bill will affect every hospital in the country, but it appears it was meant to absolve 600 Catholic hospitals from following EMTLA, and allows them to refuse to treat women in need of emergency abortions without penalty. Pitt’s bill frees hospitals from providing emergency abortions and it means medical providers who aren’t willing to terminate pregnancies to save a woman’s life wouldn’t have to, and they are relieved of the requirement to facilitate a transfer. It means that a woman who needs an emergency abortion to save her life can be left to die just because a Christian opposes abortion. It is why opponents of the bill renamed it “the Let the Woman Die” bill. The bill gives the power of life and death to any healthcare professional if their bible-conscience deems a procedure is unscriptural. Any procedure a healthcare professional thinks may harm a fetus gives them permission to refuse treatment or transfer the patient to a different facility; even if it is medically necessary to save her life.
Pitt’s bill is the beginning of theocracy and Republicans are so uncaring and dogmatic in their religious belief, that they are not the least bothered that women may die unnecessarily. Even if a woman has a miscarriage that went wrong, hospitals and medical professionals can refuse to treat her to save her life regardless that the fetus is already dead. For conservative Christians, it is better to kill the woman that is carrying a dead fetus than offer lifesaving medical care that could save the woman’s life. There is nothing about Pitt’s bill that remotely resembles protecting life, but it sounds good to the religious right; so if women die, as John Boehner says, “So be it.”
Apparently since Republicans have saved the economy, created millions of jobs, eliminated the nation’s debt, brought peace to the Middle East, and made sure that no child on Earth goes to bed hungry, they felt that it is appropriate to turn their attention to the Protect Life Act. It is obvious that Republicans will not wage war on poverty, unemployment, or global climate change because they have been too busy waging war on women and their right to choose their own reproductive health since the start of the 112th Congress. With Pitts’ bill, they are enabling Catholic Church hospitals and holier-than-god healthcare workers to be the arbiters of life and death because that is what the Christian bible mandates its adherents to do. Unfortunately for them, the United States Senate and President Obama do not recognize their god-given right to condemn women to death so Pitt’s bill will never reach fruition. However, with Republicans assailing contraceptives, abortion, and a woman’s right to choose, the forced-birth crowd will remain vigilant to impose their beliefs on the country next month. There is a hypocrisy factor as well. Republicans are repulsed by regulatory overreach, but forcing biblical regulations on the population and insurance industry works well for them.
Today, Dominionists are attempting to force birth on women, but left unchecked, they will force bible reading in public schools, mandate that Americans swear allegiance to the cross, and eventually require Americans to prostrate themselves and pray 5 times a day. After all, Republicans are emulating nearly every aspect of life in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and so far, they are succeeding because Americans are too frightened to challenge extremist Christian fundamentalists. It is that fear the Dominionists are counting on and Americans are handing this secular nation to the fanatical Christian fundamentalists on a silver platter. The Pope, priests, and clergy can be proud of cowardly Americans, but the Founders would be ashamed their secular nation gave up without a fight.