Monday, September 21, 2009

Abortion Compromise in Health Care Reform

Recently, the President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Cecile Richards, wrote an article in The Baltimore Sun defending health care reform to anti-abortion supporters. Her message was clear: under the new plan, government funds will NOT pay for abortions. Richards wrote this article to “come to the defense of [the anti-choice movement’s] first victim -- the truth.” Well if truth is the first victim, the next 150 million victims are women in America.


The pro-choice community has been on the defensive in the health care debate; we’ve been working to debunk the myths that the health care reform opposition has been spreading about abortion. In the midst of all the damage control, a very important point has been ignored- abortion care IS health care. Moreover, reproductive health care is the most integral necessity for women’s health overall. The media has been allowed to politicize a medical procedure, injecting ideology into the health and safety of women. The anti-choice movement has been successful in blocking access to health care from the women most in need by isolating abortion care from mainstream medical practice. The need to address false claims about health care reform has stifled an important conversation about how including access to comprehensive reproductive health care in the reform would dramatically improve the quality of life for women across the country.


However, the need for compromise is understood. Health care reform is necessary in order to help the 46.3 million uninsured people living in the United States, so some common ground must be found. The New York Times recently ran an article about opponents and supporters of abortion rights supporting a “truce on abortion” in the health care debate. Both sides realize that using health care reform to push their agenda just will not work-- it will only stall the reform. They are agreeing to keep the “status quo” on abortion policies, but defining that “status quo” brings another standoff. The anti-abortion groups are insisting that the public option should not cover abortion at all, as the Federal Employees Health Benefits program does not. On the other hand, the pro-choice movement believes that offering plans that cover abortion care is essential to ensuring that women who have health insurance now do not lose coverage, and women who cannot afford to pay for private plans will not be denied access to reproductive health care.


It is important to find middle ground on abortion in order for health care reform to move forward. However, it is also important to remember that some points cannot be compromised. Women have a fundamental right to reproductive health and abortion care, and health care reform cannot change that.


Currently, many legislators are supporting a reform plan that not only denies abortion coverage to women who currently cannot afford insurance, but also will cause women who already have insurance coverage for abortion care to lose it. This is completely unacceptable. If you want to tell your legislators to protect women’s reproductive health care coverage, you can write a letter with the help of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

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