Saturday night, the House of Representatives voted on their health care reform bill and passed it. While this may seem like a victory, women’s health care took a serious blow. The House voted to accept the Stupak Amendment, which would prevent insurance companies participating in the “exchange” from covering abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice America’s sent out a press release about what this decision means for women’s access to abortion care:
House: Yes to Extreme Anti-Choice Politics, No to Women’s Health and Privacy
NARAL Pro-Choice America says fight is not over
Washington, D.C. – Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called House passage of a stunning last-minute anti-choice amendment to health reform an outrageous blow to women's freedom and privacy — and she vowed to fight to remove this provision as the process goes to the Senate.
The amendment, offered by anti-choice Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Joe Pitts (R-Penn.), was adopted late tonight by a margin of 240-194.
The Stupak-Pitts amendment makes it virtually impossible for private insurance companies that participate in the new system to offer abortion coverage to women. This would have the effect of denying women the right to use their own personal private funds to purchase an insurance plan with abortion coverage in the new health system — a radical departure from the status quo. Presently, more than 85 percent of private-insurance plans cover abortion services.
"This vote is a reminder to America's pro-choice majority that, despite our gains in the last two election cycles, anti-choice members of Congress still outnumber our pro-choice allies," Keenan said. "It is unconscionable that anti-choice lawmakers would use health reform to attack women's health and privacy, but that's exactly what happened on the House floor tonight. Even though the bill already included a ban on federal funding for abortion and a requirement that only women's personal funds could pay for abortion care, Reps. Stupak and Pitts took their obsession with attacking a woman's right to choose to a whole new level. We will hold those lawmakers who sided with the extreme Stupak-Pitts amendment accountable for abandoning women and capitulating to the most extreme fringe of the anti-choice movement. In short, the fight is not over. That's why we will continue to mobilize our activists and work with our allies in Congress to remove this dangerous provision from the health-care bill and stop additional attacks as the process moves to the Senate."
Keenan said anti-choice members of Congress and their allies distorted key elements of the Stupak-Pitts amendment to make the proposal appear less extreme. Here are rebuttals to these distortions, including the myth of an abortion "rider" that they say women could purchase in addition to their insurance plan:
- The Stupak-Pitts amendment forbids any plan offering abortion coverage in the new system from accepting even one subsidized customer. Since more than 80 percent of the participants in the exchange will be subsidized, it seems certain that all health plans will seek and accept these individuals. In other words, the Stupak-Pitts amendment forces plans in the exchange to make a difficult choice: either offer their product to 80 percent of consumers in the marketplace or offer abortion services in their benefits package. It seems clear which choice they will make.
- Stupak-Pitts supporters claim that women who require subsidies to help pay for their insurance plan will have abortion access through the option of purchasing a "rider," but this is a false promise. According to the respected National Women's Law Center, the five states that require a separate rider for abortion coverage, there is no evidence that plans offer these riders. In fact, in North Dakota, which has this policy, the private plan that holds the state's overwhelming share of the health-insurance market (91 percent) does not offer such a rider. Furthermore, the state insurance department has no record of abortion riders from any of the five leading individual insurance plans from at least the past decade. Nothing in this amendment would ensure that rider policies are available or affordable to the more than 80 percent of individuals who will receive federal subsidies in order to help purchase coverage in the new exchange.
The only representative from Maryland to vote for the amendment was Roscoe Bartlett, of the 6th district. He is the sole Republican representing Maryland in Congress.Planned Parenthood Federation of America is asking you to take action to make sure that the Senate doesn’t ignore women’s needs in their bill. Ask President Obama to take a stand to protect women’s health care.