Senator Debbie Stabenow is on a roll for women’s health care.  First, she took on Senator Jon Kyl about his proposal that maternity care shouldn’t be provided for in the health care reform package:

Then, Senator Stabenow contested the plan of Senator Orrin Hatch to preclude insurance providers who work with the federal government on any public option/co-op sort of plan they come up with from offering abortion services to their private insurance customers:

So in the span of a week, one GOP senator said he didn’t think the new health care legislation should cover maternal care and then another one said it shouldn’t cover abortion.  Am I missing the logic here somewhere?  Because it seems that this is more about denying women coverage in a variety of circumstances unique to them than it is about principle,  individual health insurance availability or reform.

As explained so well by Cynthia Tucker at the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Hatch’s amendment was aimed at federal subsidies that low-income families will be able to use to buy private health insurance:

[A] group of Catholic bishops, anti-abortion Democrats and conservative Republicans are up in arms over the subsidies which will be offered to families who cannot afford to purchase insurance. They claim the subsidies will be used to buy policies that cover abortions.

They’re wrong. The legislation sets up an elaborate accounting system which separates private money from public money. That system has been used effectively in states where Medicaid provides for abortions. (Medicaid is paid from both federal and state tax funds; states that allow Medicaid to cover abortions can’t use federal funds to pay for it.)

This is just a guess, but I’m thinking that Senator Hatch knew that when he proposed the amendment. And I hate to break it to him, but the last time I checked, abortion was still legal in America.  So his attempts to try to slip an amendment into the current health care reform proposal to preclude most, if not all, insurance companies from covering a legal abortion under any circumstance is a pretty underhanded way to do an end run around women’s rights.

Thank goodness, as mentioned at CNN, the women on the Senate Finance Committee saw this amendment for what it really was:

“Both [Senator Olympia] Snowe [of Maine] and Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan challenged the amendment as a new limit on a woman’s right to abortion by requiring women with private health insurance to purchase supplemental coverage for abortions.”

Bonnie Erbe at on her blog at U.S. News & World Report called Hatch’s amendment “whacky” and thinks that once the dust settles after this current debate, it should be time for Congress to re-evaluate the current state of abortion law altogether:

When  reform is completed, congressional Democrats should go after the Hyde Amendment, and some probably will. It needs to be re-authorized each year. Methinks sometime between now and the next mid-term elections, it should be voted down once and for all.

These challenges don’t seem to be about what any individual’s insurance plan should cover.  They look more like poorly disguised efforts to turn the clock back on women’s reproductive rights — no matter what part of the process we’re talking about.  Can you imagine if the women of the Senate had offered amendments to call for men to purchase separate riders for something male-specific like prostate cancer coverage?  The protests would be deafening.

Given these efforts in the Senate, I wouldn’t be surprised if an attack on birth control is next. Griswold vs. Connecticut is still good law when it comes to contraception, but I wouldn’t be surprised.  I’m listening for it.  We all should be.