TPM Cafe: Opinion

Anti-Obamacare Conservatives Took A Page From The Anti-Choice Playbook

AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin

The idea that getting health insurance through the exchanges is tantamount to experiencing sexual mortification is evident also in the claims that are cropping up on the right that signing up will mean that your sexual history is put in some kind of database to be used for nefarious purposes. It's absolutely untrue, of course, but the threat that merely signing up for insurance will result in you being "outed" as a sexually active person is highly reminiscent of the way that anti-choice protesters try to induce sexual shame in abortion patients by showing up at clinics, taking pictures, and writing down license plate numbers. The message is consistent: You can't get an abortion -- and now, sign up for Obamacare -- without having your privacy violated.

On the government level, a common anti-abortion tactic is to claim that abortion is somehow unsafe and therefore the government needs to pass a bunch of regulations that, in actuality, are just about making abortion hard to get. This strategy is being borrowed wholesale by Republican leaders looking for a way to put obstacles in between people and the health care exchanges. Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) of Florida have been running around making hysterical, unfounded claims that the navigator program -- which is just a federal program that hires people to help the uninsured navigate the new health care exchanges---is somehow some grave threat to people's privacy. Bondi has gone as far as to suggest that using a navigator to sign up for insurance will be at risk of identity theft. As anti-choicers use trumped-up concerns about abortion's safety as cover to pass regulations making it harder to get, Scott is using these trumped-up concerns about the navigator program's safety to bar the navigators from using state offices.

Florida isn't alone in this. Seventeen states have passed laws making it harder for the navigators to operate. Unsurprisingly, these states also tend to be the ones that pass a bunch of unnecessary restrictions on abortion access, and the anti-navigator laws are highly reminiscent of the legal harassment conservatives subject abortion providers to, as well. Just as many states pass laws forcing doctors to recite anti-abortion scripts written by politicians, states like Missouri and Georgia are trying to meddle with the navigator interaction, even going as far as to try to control the language they use. Other states are passing unnecessary laws that require navigators to pay fees and subject themselves to a bunch of extra training, even though the federal government already trains navigators.

It should be no surprise to see anti-abortion tactics being replicated in the war on Obamacare. It's basically the same people who are running both movements, for one thing. More importantly, the anti-abortion and anti-Obamacare movements are strongly linked by the conservative obsession with trying to control who gets health care and under what circumstances. Unfortunately, because of this link, we can expect that, just as with the anti-choice movement, the anti-Obamacare movement probably won't just go away if they lose the first battle. They'll probably hang around for years or even decades, trying to find novel ways to reduce people's access to safe, affordable health care.

Marcotte is a freelance journalist who writes frequently about liberal politics, the religious right and reproductive health care. She's a prolific Twitter villain who can be followed @amandamarcotte.