The House Affordable Health Care Act Passes At a Steep Price for Women’s Reproductive Health

November 12, 2009 posted by admin

Last Saturday, the House passed the historic Affordable Health Care Act (HR 3962), but it came at a steep price for women's reproductive rights, as the Stupak-Pitts Amendment was tacked on -- greatly restricting health insurance options for women.

Thanks to the pressure successfully applied by anti-choice politicians on both sides of the aisle, and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the House bill expanded the current ban on public funding for abortion to effectively disqualify many women from private health insurance plans based on their reproductive choices. These restrictions create significant barriers for women to hold on to their insurance  policies even when they cover abortion costs out of pocket. They are a sharp departure from current practice and an infringement on a woman's right to all legal medical procedures and care. It represents an unjustified political intrusion into decisions best left to patients and their doctors.

Here are some reactions from some of our member centers -- many of them long-time advocates of women's reproductive health care rights, as well as some joint statements issued in response to the Stupak-Pitts Amendment.

The Feminist Majority Foundation
Under the guise of no federal funding for abortion in so-called keeping with Hyde Amendment restrictions, the Stupak Amendment goes way beyond Hyde. This amendment bans abortion coverage even if women pay for it with their own money in the public option or private plans in the insurance exchange.
Read entire statement

Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
The bill includes the Stupak/Pitts amendment that would leave women worse off after health care reform than they are today, violating President Obama's promise to the American people that no one would be forced to lose her or his present coverage under health reform. 
Read entire statement

Judy Waxman, National Women’s Law Center
This was not an argument over federal funding; there is agreement from both sides of the aisle that the Capps compromise prohibits federal funding from being used to cover abortions. Instead, the Stupak amendment, now part of the bill that passed the House, deprives women of the ability to choose whether they want to buy insurance that covers abortion with their own premium dollars. This is the only example in the entire health care reform effort of the government trying to force insurance companies to stop covering a service they already cover. As the debate moves into the Senate, we must be clear that we won’t stand for health reform being used as a Trojan horse to sneak in restrictions on women’s ability to choose insurance plans that cover all of our health needs. 
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Legal Momentum
Under the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, federal insurance subsidies cannot be used to buy insurance plans that offer abortion coverage.  Thus, while insurance companies are not prohibited from providing abortion coverage, they have little incentive to do so because most potential buyers will be unable to purchase them.  Indeed, if insurance companies seek to receive the benefits of subsidized buyers, they cannot simultaneously cover abortions.  In turn, women who seek safe, affordable abortions will face enormous difficulties in obtaining insurance coverage.  The consequences of this will be hardest felt among low-income women who will face high abortion costs and no insurance. 
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Joint Statement of Religious Leaders on Stupak Amendment
Catholics for Choice, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Clergy Network, the Religious Coalition on Reproductive Choice, and the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing represent more than ten thousand religious leaders and tens of thousands of people of faith who believe that abortion must be safe, legal, and accessible…We are appalled that religious leaders intervened to impose their specific religious doctrine into health care reform, not recognizing that women must have the right to apply or reject the principles of their own faith in making the decision as to whether or not abortion is appropriate in their specific circumstances.
Read the entire statement

NARAL Pro-Choice America
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.
Read more here

Catholics for Choice
Behavior in recent weeks tells us and the American voters a lot about core values. We in the prochoice community stayed true to our core values, seeking to overcome the struggles ordinary Americans have making ends meet. These struggles mean that many cannot afford basic healthcare or have to choose between maintaining their health and paying for other basic necessities.
Read entire statement

Nancy Northup, Center for Reproductive Rights
Tonight's vote in the House is a stunning assault on women's health and rights. In a matter of hours, our elected officials have fallen hook, line and sinker for the anti-choice position, dispensing with a credible compromise on abortion and adopting a bill that would leave millions of women worse off than they already are today.
Read full statement


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