Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Your Tax Dollars at Work, against Women Pennsylvania Lawmakers Squander Time and Money to Block Health Care Access

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Your Tax Dollars at Work, against Women Pennsylvania Lawmakers Squander Time and Money to Block Health Care Access

Article excerpt

If you read the comments posted by readers at the bottom of online newspaper articles, you've probably seen some variation of this: "I (do or don't) have a problem with abortion, but why should I have to pay for it with my taxes?"

The answer is, you don't. There is virtually no public funding for abortion services in this country, and there hasn't been since the Hyde Amendment in 1977, although Congress has allowed some exceptions over the years for poor women in cases of rape, incest and life-threatening conditions.

Similar comments appear when the subject is contraception, which actually helps cut down on unwanted pregnancy and, hence, abortion. Those opposed to contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act say they don't want to pay for other people's birth control. But they wouldn't be, any more than they'd be paying for other people's gall bladder surgery, pre-natal visits or vasectomies.

Some folks get very worked up over these red herrings. But what they may not know, if they live in Pennsylvania, is what their taxes are paying for: repeated attempts by the country's most bloated state Legislature to block access to safe, constitutionally protected health care for women -- poor women, especially.

Folks may not realize, for example, that the Republican- controlled Legislature spent more than a third of its voting days in the first half of 2011 taking up some kind of action toward that end.

Think about that for a minute. Pennsylvania has the largest full- time and second-most-expensive Legislature in the nation -- 253 lawmakers and about 2,900 support staffers costing more than $300 million a year -- despite ranking sixth in population. And this is how they choose to spend their very expensive time?

Did I mention that the statehouse is 83 percent male? Don't they have anything better to do? Ripping off taxpayers with midnight bonuses may not be as easy as it used to be, but must they take out their frustrations on poor women?

The 30 percent number comes from Susan Frietsche, staff attorney for the Women's Law Project in Pittsburgh, which has been fighting political incursions into women's wombs for decades. How did she arrive at 30-plus?

"I counted," she said, using the state legislative website, which posts the calendar of voting sessions and the bills taken up in each of them. Of the 53 voting days during that period, 20 dealt with reproductive restrictions -- sometimes extensively, sometimes less so. And that doesn't account for all the additional time spent on these issues outside of voting sessions.

Just as a reality check, here are the top 10 issues states are facing, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures: stabilizing budgets; health care reform; protecting public pensions; reducing incarceration and its costs; building and regulating new energy technologies; transportation infrastructure; education funding and student achievement; job creation; workforce training; and strengthening families in a shrinking economy. …

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