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November 16, 2009

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Student Activism is Back!

November 16, 2009
Politicians beware: student activism is back, and here at Harvard we’re starting a student revolution to STOP STUPAK.
I am a freshman at Harvard University, where, despite the presence of enormous individual student ambition and drive, it’s pretty much impossible to incite enthusiasm from any large-ish group about anything besides the upcoming exam in Social Analysis 10. When only about twenty people show up to watch candidates debate for the Massachusetts Senate seat left vacant by Ted Kennedy, it’s hard to imagine mobilizing students to spend time and energy making their voices and anger heard over the recent Stupak-Pitts Amendment to the House healthcare bill (or even provoking their anger in the first place). Don’t get me wrong, students here are certainly engaged beyond their academics in just about every extracurricular pursuit imaginable, but because of the student body’s diversity of passions, it’s hard to pique broad interest for one cause.
So, you can imagine my surprise when, after receiving an email message from Gina Glantz and Kim Gandy (two fellows at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics and experienced political and advocacy aficionados), I showed up to a “Stop Stupak Emergency Planning Meeting” to find a room packed with students: law students, humanities graduate students, graduate government school students, college students, and, notably, a large contingent of freshmen. “Yes!” I thought. “Students care about reproductive health care, women’s right to choose, and the knowledge that women’s health care is health care. We understand that no one plans an unplanned pregnancy, something that both private and public insurance plans will be forced to cast aside if the Stupak amendment makes it into the final version of the healthcare bill.”
 As Gina Glantz, Chair of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and longtime field organizer, gave an introduction and set up the meeting’s format, the bodies in the room and the energy buzzing in the air increased. Kim Gandy, former president of NOW, sat beside her, having postponed a trip in order to help organize a powerful student movement that will pressure Congress to protect coverage for comprehensive health care.
The first steps in any advocacy movement are to understand the problem, decide what needs to be change, and establish goals to best effect that change. We reviewed Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s thorough and accessible run-down of the Stupak amendment and what it does to women’s health care coverage, and went over the implications the amendment might have as the healthcare bill progresses to the Senate. Gandy emphasized that the Stupak amendment goes beyond the compromise that CAPP established, which was to prohibit federal funding for abortion. The Stupak amendment would, in addition, restrict women’s access to PRIVATE abortion coverage, affecting how we spend our own money out of our own pockets.
We established two primary goals in our advocacy:
1)                   Ensure that the Stupak amendment doesn’t end up in the final health care bill
2)                   Mobilize college students at Harvard and beyond to start a movement advocating for women’s health care, reproductive rights, etc.
Our immediate priority is to convince the Senate to bring a bill to the floor that doesn’t include Stupak or anything like it. If the House and Senate bills differ (which they doubtless will), both bills will go to the Conference Committee, where the committee will mix and match the two bills and come up with a compromise. The Conference Committee will be our next target, and we need to ensure that Stupak is stripped from this final bill.
Next, Glantz presented an acronym for urgent organization and planning: UNLOCK (Urgency, Need to plan quickly, Lead and leverage, Organize organize organize, Count real numbers, Kill Stupak Victory). Gandy then briefed us on the Senate, emphasizing that we must focus pressure on states with an anti-choice democrat or a pro-choice democrat in a state that’s pro-life (Louisiana, for example). These states (Pennsylvania, Indiana, Maine, Arkansas, Louisiana, Virginia, North Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, Missouri) are essential in the fight to stop Stupak.
ACTION: if you are from one of these states, or know anyone from these states, it is imperative that you call your senator and urge him or her to oppose any bill that limits abortion funding more than it already has been from the CAPPS compromise.
So what action are we planning to STOP STUPAK at Harvard?
In conjunction with the upcoming national day of action this Wednesday, November 18th, we’re planning a STUDENTS STOP STUPAK rally at the Harvard Square T-stop at rush hour. We’ll hold coat hangers, signs, and circulate petitions as commuters and students filter through the Boston subway system. We’ll get media attention, and force our representatives to understand that students and voters care and are angry. 
Please join us!
If you are a student, feel free to adopt our plan of action and join us this Wednesday with a protest of your own. 
If you are in or near the Boston area, come to the Harvard Square T-stop between 3:30 and 5:30 PM to show your outrage and stand up for women’s reproductive rights. 
Follow Stopstupaknow on twitter for updates.
Join our facebook group to garner support for Students Stop Stupak.
Check out our website and get ready for a student revolution to STOP STUPAK NOW.
Stay tuned for more action alerts and ideas, and in the meantime, sign the petition to STOP STUPAK.

Questions? Ideas for student stopping Stupak? Leave a comment below. 

(Cross-posted from


November 16, 2009




Not able to come to the rally but want to know about future actions to stop the Stupak amendment? Join us here!

Join the Movement! Rally to STOP STUPAK NOW

November 15, 2009

Click here to let us know you’re coming to our first event! PLEASE ENTER YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS!

When: November 18, 2009 from 3:30-5:3o PM

Where: the Pit (T-stop in the center of Harvard Square, on the Red Line)

Why: Because you’re angry and reproductive healthcare IS healthcare

What You Can Do To Help

November 14, 2009

What can you do, you ask?  There are a couple of things you can do right now, from the comfort of your own home:

1) Call your senator and express your opposition to the amendment.  Tell him or her you don’t want anything like the Stupak Amendment in the Senate version of the health care bill.   The number of the Senate switchboard is: (202)-224-3121 (ask for your senator).  You can reach Speaker Pelosi at (202) 225-0110 and Majority Leader Reid at (202)224-3542.  Please call.  The more pressure they get from constituents, the better.  Ask your friends to call. 

It is especially important you call if you are from the following states: Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Dakota, Nevada, Missouri, Maine, Arkansas, Louisiana, Virginia, and Nebraska.  It is crucial that these senators hear that their constituents want to preserve reproductive rights for women.  Tell your friends and family! 

2) Sign some petitions!  Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and CREDO all have petitions going.  We’d like to present the Senate with as many signatures as possible in support of reproductive rights! 

Stay tuned: we’ll be posting additional ways you can contribute and scheduled events in support of reproductive freedom.  Don’t let anti-choice Republicans OR Democrats roll back women’s rights!


What is the Stupak Amendment? Why do we need to get rid of it?

November 14, 2009

What Is It

The Stupak-Pitts Amendment (widely referred to as simply the Stupak Amendment) was included at the last minute in the House’s Health Care bill.  This amendment effectively bans abortion coverage in all plans, both public and private, in the new insurance exchange.  No plans in the exchange may cover abortion under this amendment. 

What It Does

Proponents of this amendment claim that it simply enforces the Hyde Amendment (which is already on the books and prohibits federal funds from being used to subsidize abortion).  In reality, however, the Stupak Amendment goes further.  It would effectively ban abortion coverage for both women on public plans AND women who buy private plans through the exchange.  Not only would women receiving a federal subsidy not be able to get abortion coverage, but women who are paying their entire premium out of pocket (that is, not receiving federal subsidies) would be denied coverage.  It is a ban on coverage.  It would restrict coverage for women who currently have coverage through their private insurance plans. 

Why It Needs To Go

The Stupak Amendment bans abortion coverage completely within the exchange.  Its purpose is not to maintain the status quo of abortion coverage, but rather to deny abortion services to millions of women, whether they are receiving federal subsidies or not.  It would prevent women from paying for abortion coverage out of pocket.  This amendment represents a severe restriction on women’s reproductive rights and as such cannot be allowed into the final bill.

Current State of Health Care Reform 101

November 13, 2009

The House of Representatives recently passed their version of the health care reform bill.  In order to understand the effect the Stupak Amendment has on abortion rights, it is important to understand the House’s version of reform. 

The House’s Health Care bill would create an “exchange”: the exchange is basically a marketplace where health insurance policies, both public and private, can be sold.  The purpose of the exchange is to provide affordable health coverage to the majority of currently uninsured Americans (36 of the 46 million uninsured Americans would be eligible for federal subsidies) as well as the millions of Americans who are self-employed or have small businesses with 100 or fewer employees.  Individuals with incomes up to 400x the federal poverty level (roughly $88,000/year for a family of four) would be eligible for subsidies on a sliding scale that would go towards private plans.  Those making more than $88,000/year would not be eligible for subsidies.  Because of the Stupak Amendment, all women who fall into these categories are in danger of losing coverage for abortion that they have in their current private insurance plans, since 80% of private plans cover abortion. 

The next step is for the Senate to pass their version of the bill.  Once the Senate version has passed, the two bills will go into the conference process, where the differences between the two will be resolved.  The final version of the bill will then be voted on by both the House and the Senate.  So, the bill has a long way to go and there are going to be many opportunities to change its contents.