Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Setting the Record Straight: Health Care Reform and the Abortion Debate

Having trouble keeping track of the facts on health care reform? It’s certainly understandable, given the divisive tactics and rhetoric adopted by anti-choice factions. These groups are attempting to thwart compromise and instead institute a ban on abortion in privately funded plans as well as in any publicly funded options. This is the final post in a three-part series that will present the facts and refute false claims made by anti-choice activists. Here is what is really going on in regard to abortion coverage in proposed health care reform measures.

FALSE CLAIM: Anti-choice members of Congress have not been allowed to change the bills to limit abortion coverage in the new system.

FACT: On July 30, lawmakers from both sides of the abortion debate who serve on a key House committee voted for a compromise that allows each insurance plan to decide whether to provide coverage for abortion. It also separates public tax dollars from private funds, thus keeping bans on public funding for abortion services in place.

As pro-choice advocates, we find this action regrettable since it singles out abortion from other health-care services, but apparently it was necessary to stop anti-choice politicians from continuing to use health-care reform to attack a woman’s right to choose. Anti-choice members of Congress aren’t satisfied with this. They want to impose a new nationwide abortion ban in the private health-insurance market by prohibiting such coverage in the new health-care system—thus taking away coverage from women who already have it.

Pro-Choice Leaders Pay Tribute to Sen. Kennedy’s Legacy of Support for Women’s Equality and Privacy

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Andrea Miller, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, issued the following joint statement paying tribute to Sen. Edward Kennedy's legacy of service.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Kennedy family today. They have lost a devoted father, husband, grandfather, and uncle, and the people of the commonwealth of Massachusetts and all Americans have lost a great statesman and champion for progressive values.

“Throughout his career, Sen. Edward Kennedy set a new standard as a voice for the powerless and inspired generations of Americans to strengthen their country by contributing through public service. He was a tireless advocate for women’s equality and an eloquent guardian of the values of freedom and privacy, most notably as a leader on health care and judicial nominations.

“Sen. Kennedy never wavered in his pursuit to do what was right for the American people. At a time when our country faces such significant challenges, we must pay tribute to Sen. Kennedy’s legacy by following his example of moving forward, even against great odds and relentless opposition from opponents of progress.”

Monday, August 24, 2009

Setting the Record Straight: Health Care Reform and the Abortion Debate

Having trouble keeping track of the facts on health care reform? It’s certainly understandable, given the divisive tactics and rhetoric adopted by anti-choice factions. These groups are attempting to thwart compromise and instead institute a ban on abortion in privately funded plans as well as in any publicly funded options. This is the second in a three-part series that will present the facts and refute false claims made by anti-choice activists. Here is what is really going on in regard to abortion coverage in proposed health care reform measures.

FALSE CLAIM: The new health-care system will expand coverage of abortion beyond its current scope.

FACT: Over 80% of private insurance plans already cover abortion care.

In the new system, consumers could choose a plan that does not offer abortion care if they like, just as they could choose a plan that does or does not offer dental or vision coverage. In a recent town hall meeting, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) elaborated, “If you want to have a health care plan which does not have payment for abortions, you can have that one where you'll not be charged for somebody who has an abortion. Now if you want a different health care plan, an option where you can have payment for abortion and you pay for it, because there'd be a little bigger premium, you have the choice of being in one plan or the other.”

The fact is that current reform proposals would not force anti-choice constituents to buy into a plan that covers abortions. In every coverage area, there must be at least one plan that includes abortion services and one plan that does not. Creating an affordable health insurance plan for Americans is the real issue, and anti-choice groups are attempting to mobilize pro-life and mixed-choice Americans against measures that aim to alleviate the economic stress of high premiums and Medicare programs on the national budget, rather than endorsing any sort of agenda.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Setting the Record Straight: Health Care Reform and the Abortion Debate

Having trouble keeping track of the facts on health care reform? It’s certainly understandable, given the divisive tactics and rhetoric adopted by anti-choice factions. These groups are attempting to thwart compromise and instead institute a ban on abortion in privately funded plans as well as in any publicly funded options. This is the first in a three-part series that will present the facts and refute false claims made by anti-choice activists. Here is what is really going on in regard to abortion coverage in proposed health care reform measures.

FALSE CLAIM: The new health care system would mandate abortion.

FACT: None of the proposed bills mandate any type of health care service, including abortion services.

Keep in mind that the controversial public plan would not be government-funded – rather, government subsidies would be available to those of lower-income so they can afford health insurance. In line with President Obama’s common ground policy, Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) and fellow centrist House Democrats have proposed a compromise that would neither demand nor prohibit private plans from covering abortion care, but restricts federal subsidies from being used for abortion procedures.

Despite this common sense approach, House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio falsely claimed in an op-ed piece on July 23 that that the Democratic-backed health care reform plan "will require (Americans) to subsidize abortion with their hard-earned tax dollars." Politifact.org, a nonpartisan website that fact-checks politicians’ statements, pointed out that this statement is wrong. In current proposals, abortion funding would be provided with private funds through increased premiums, not through public subsidies.

Under Capps’ proposal, federal funds would not be used to fund abortions except in cases of rape, incest, when a woman’s life is in danger, in accordance with the Hyde Amendment of 1976. The Hyde Amendment’s narrow parameters jeopardize women’s health, disallowing abortions even when medically necessary to preserve her health, depriving women of timely access to treatment, and even sometimes forcing women to carry pregnancies to term. Abortion rights opponents, however, wish to extend the harsh provisions of the Hyde Amendment to any private insurance companies that participate in the government-sponsored health care exchange, thus denying consumers care that is already provided in the majority of current plans.

Also, FactCheck.org has contested a Family Research Council advertisement asserting that the health-reform bills will secretly "mandate" abortion. Even the anti-choice group Catholics United has admonished the FRC for airing the ad, urging the organization to stop contributing to the “public misinformation effort against health care reform."

Several versions of the health care reform bill are working through Congress, making it difficult to say with certainty what the final plan will or will not include. While it appears likely the plan would allow for the option of abortion coverage, there is nothing in the proposed reforms to support anti-choice claims that taxpayers would subsidize abortions.

Women should be entitled to reproductive health care regardless of their economic status. Restrictions on public funding make abortion services unavailable to low-income women by restraining reproductive health options for those who rely on the government for their health care, jeopardizing women's health and the doctor-patient relationship.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mayor Dixon Stresses Need for Teen Pregnancy Initiative


Last Monday, Mayor Sheila Dixon met with the Baltimore City Health Department, Healthy Teen Network, and the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute to collaborate on a comprehensive plan intended to reduce teen pregnancy in Baltimore. Attendants were encouraged to cite specific resources that could be utilized in such a proposal, and Mayor Dixon described the meeting as a “critical first step toward not only reducing teen pregnancy but also ensuring that Baltimore’s babies lead long, healthy, and productive lives.”

Teenage pregnancy has been a serious problem in Baltimore City. The Baltimore City teen birth rate, two times greater than Maryland’s rate and 1.6 times greater than the national rate in 2006, increased in 2006 for the first time in 7 years. Teen mothers face higher rates of preterm birth, and their infants have higher rates of low birth weight and infant death, not to mention that children of teenage mothers are more likely to drop out of school, be in poor health, and have an unintended pregnancy themselves. STI rates in the city are also staggering – the number of individuals living with HIV or AIDS in Baltimore City has more than doubled since 2007. That same year, syphilis rates incidence rates in Baltimore City were over three times higher than those of Maryland and gonorrhea rates were four times than those of Maryland.

All of these statistics accentuate a pressing need for the city to embrace an inclusive approach towards this issue that incorporates comprehensive sex education, access to affordable birth control, and programs to increase healthy childbearing and delivery. We commend Mayor Dixon in taking initiative to improve the health of young women and babies and hope that this reflects a sustained commitment to reducing teen births in Baltimore City.