As we mobilize, here in Connecticut and throughout the US, in opposition to the Stupak Amendment it is vital to maintain an intersectional analysis and vision to our advocacy and activism. The following discourse hopefully outlines (employing the examples of reproductive rights and trans rights) how we as a society cannot and must not rely on our votes, our so-called political pressures, or our politicians in securing full and equal access to health care, as well as self-determination over their bodies.
We must, as in the words of the inspiring anarchist Ammon Hennacy “see our bodies as our ballots and to vote every single day with our bodies;” and so to work outside the system in assuring that all our comrades are provided accessible and comprehensive health care, including full control over our bodies! While at the same time educating those who desire to work within the system, to understand that compromise nor reform are acceptable nor tolerable from our politicians when it comes to such basic human rights as health care and self determination.
Here in Hartford a coalition of organizations, including several I am part of, will hold a demonstration on Dec 21 bringing awareness to the horrific imports of the Stupak amendment. HOWEVER, our outrage and our awareness must go beyond the Stupak amendment, and the single issue of abortion ~ and to go to the broader issues of health and reproductive justice which are impacting OUR bodies and OUR rights.
And so let us take a brief, and albeit select, historical journey into several legislative endeavors that our beloved politicians have deemed they must enact to legislate over our bodies:
Helms Amendments relating to ADA and Fair Housing Act:
September 7, 1989: On this day on the Senate floor a discussion ensued between senators jesse helms and tom harkin regarding a “few questions” about the Americans with Disabilities Act. I will relay just a few select portions of this exchange below and refer the reader to the Congressional Record for the full exchange.
Mr. HELMS. I thought the Senator would say that, so I will be specific. Does the list of disabilities include pedophiles?
Mr. HARKIN. What?
Mr. HELMS. P-e-d-o-p-h-i-l-e-s?
Mr. HARKIN. I can assure the Senator no.
Mr. HELMS. Transvestites?
Mr. HARKIN. Absolutely not.
Mr. HARKIN. Just a moment, I may have misspoken.
Let us back up to transvestite. I said no, but I am told by staff that one court at one time held that a transvestite was mentally impaired, and I further understand the Senator from North Carolina added an amendment to the fair housing amendments last year that took care of that, and it was accepted.
Mr. HELMS. Where does that leave us with respect to this bill?
Mr. HARKIN. I do not know. Just a minute.
If the Senator would like to offer an amendment, we will accept it. If can I ask the Senator, if it could be drafted the same way you did last year on the Fair Housing Act.
And so, with this simple challenge by Helms and this rapid acquiescence by a transphobic Harkin the following amendment was added to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the high priests of capital hill made their moral judgement regarding the bodies and lives of all those who transgress the barbie doll/GI Joe images of gender identity or gender expression.
The following Helms amendment was passed by voice vote and added to the Americans with Disabilities bill S. 933 as follows:
`For the purposes of this Act, the term `disabled’ or `disability’ shall not apply to an individual solely because that individual is a transvestite.’
In 1988 Helms added the precursor to this above amendment to the Fair Housing Bill, which would prevent the Bill’s anti-discrimination section from protecting an individual solely because that individual is a transvestite (as a footnote, Senator Gore voted in favor of this amendment)
From Hyde to Stupak , Over thirty years of severely restricting abortion:
Here we are following an election about Change, a democrat in the presidency and democratic majorities in the House and Senate and yet we are looking directly down the barrel of even more barbaric restrictions on the direct determination that a woman has on her body! This is NOT Change, except possibly for Change in rhetoric (not action) from extreme right policies to more reformist centrist policies.
However, back to the point, I have heard folks say that the Stupak Amendment will impact poor women and so we must work to stop it. Most definitely it will impact working class women who desire an abortion though cannot afford the out of pocket expenses for one. However, let us not revise abortion history, for in reality since 1976 the Hyde Amendment was enacted into law by no less than a Freshman legislator and had an immediate impact on ALL women seeking an abortion who received ANY federally subsidized health insurance (read Native Americans, Medicaid)!
The Stupak Amendment is deplorable, and we must mobilize upon this attack on Women’s Reproductive rights as an opportunity to put the requirement of federal funding for health care in the spotlight. Now is the time to mobilize and re-energize the campaign to remove any bans on the use of federal funds for abortion; and we must frame the issue in a way that does not obfuscate the links between the Hyde and Stupak amendments, though instead underlines their connections as vicious, discriminatory, a blatant violation of women’s rights as well as an attack on Women’s health and safety.
Medicaid and Trans folks:
As Paisley Curry and Dean Spade note in their article “The State We’re In: Locations of Coercion and Resistance in Trans Policy, Part I.” Low-income trans people have much more contact with particular disciplinary arms of the state, for example social service providers, Medicaid systems, and the criminal justice system than do other individuals. Because these state actors also define and regulate gender, and distribute benefits based on gender, the more contact people have with these state agencies, the more they are pressured or forced to comply with traditional and birth assigned gender norms. This is compounded by the fact that States almost always require trans individuals to modify their bodies before their gender will be legally recognized. But most Medicaid programs, which are administered at the state level, do not cover the psychotherapy, hormone therapies, surgeries, and other treatments required for this all-important legal recognition. Consequently leaving the many trans people who are reliant upon Medicaid in highly vulnerable and threatening positions that are imposed by the State.
Since Medicaid coverage for procedures requires a determination of “medical necessity“, and the Medicaid statutes do not provide coverage for “optional” services, “transsexual” is narrowly defined in Medicaid litigation as a “very complex medical and psychological problem.” Thereby placing the trans person dependent upon federal funding for their health care in serious jeopardy regarding access to health care. And you can be sure that this is not a small percentage of the trans population here in the greater hartford area.
As Gehi and Arkles note in their “Unraveling Injustice: Race and Class Impact of Medicaid Exclusions of Transition-Related Health Care for Transgender People,” many of the State Medicaid regulations, with regard to transition-related health care, fall into one of two categories: (i) those that explicitly prohibit coverage of transition-related care and (ii) those that do not. Twenty-four states explicitly exclude coverage for transition-related health care by regulation and in those states that do not have an explicit exclusion, coverage for transition-related care may still be denied based on interpretation and application of a more general exclusion, such as for so-called experimental or cosmetic treatments.
We must continually educate ourselves and our peoples that legislators, the courts and their so-called systems of justice will never bring equality to all, though rather simply provide continually restrictive reforms which meet a smaller and smaller segment of the population that wishes to cow-tow to a system of immoral rights! As we advocate, agitate and activate, we must also continually look outside the system and create and/or support those grassroot vehicles within our communities that seek to provide safe, humane and viable means of Reproductive Justice and Health Care.