Reproductive Health Care in Reform Bills Threatened
Please take time now to call or email your representative and senators to urge that no restrictions for women's reproductive health services should be included in health care reform legislation.
While there have been several wins in health care reform legislation concerning reproductive health services, a number of serious threats have emerged in recent days. Abortion rights opponents in both parties are moving to prohibit coverage in any public plan that is part of reform legislation. There is even an effort to prohibit private health insurance companies participating in the proposed health insurance exchanges to stop covering abortion services. Most private insurers currently provide coverage for abortion.
Anti-abortion rights groups are flooding members of Congress with thousands of calls, opposing any provision in health care reform that would permit the use of government funds to pay for abortion care as well as trying to stop private insurance coverage of these services. Please call or email your representative and senators right away. You can use our formatted message below or create one in your own words.
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The Good News:
In mid-July, fifteen anti-abortion rights amendments offered by Republicans were narrowly defeated in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee as the committee marked-up health care overhaul legislation. One, offered by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), would have prohibited abortion coverage in a health care exchange for participants who receive government subsidized coverage. Another, offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), would have specified that federal health reform legislation could not override state laws on parental notification when minors seek abortion services. A second Coburn amendment was rejected that would have advanced a broad version of so-called "conscience" exemptions for health care providers with moral or religious objections to reproductive health care.
On the House side, the House Education and Labor Committee recently approved a major health reform bill (H.R. 3200) after rejecting two amendments brought by Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) that sought to prohibit health care plans -- including a public plan -- that participate in the proposed health insurance exchange from covering abortion services. The House Ways and Means Committee approved H.R. 3200 after spurning dozens of Republican amendments, including several attempts to exclude abortion coverage from the essential benefit package created in the bill.
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The Bad News:
The topic of abortion coverage in health care reform has become red hot in recent days as abortion rights opponents have pressed the Democratic leadership to accept restrictions against abortion services in House legislation. A campaign of disinformation has been mounted by these groups, claiming that policies the Obama administration are pursuing "will result in massive public subsidies for abortion and result in a massive increase in the number of abortions."
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), co-chair of the Pro-Life Caucus, has said that health care reform legislation should maintain restrictions on federal funding of abortion. Stupak was among a group of 19 conservative Democrats who sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in June threatening to vote against any reform legislation that does not specifically prohibit federal funding from being used for abortion services.
Mid-week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with several anti-abortion-rights Democrats to ease pressure and a group of centrist Democrats have proposed an amendment that would neither require nor prohibit insurers from covering abortion services, as long as federal funding is not used. The latest tactic on the part of anti-abortion forces is to claim that because private insurers may be participating in the health insurance exchanges that the reform plan would establish, they would be benefiting from federal funding and must halt abortion coverage.
Some observers believe that this heightened campaign against abortion rights has an ultimate goal of prohibiting private health insurance plans from covering abortion. A 2002 study found that 87 percent of employer-based health insurance policies covered 'medically necessary or appropriate abortions', while another study found that 46 percent of workers with health insurance had coverage for abortion. So, if abortion rights opponents win on prohibiting private insurance from including abortion coverage, millions of women will be affected.
Take action now and tell your representative and senators how important these reproductive health services are to you and to women everywhere. We will be keeping you updated on reproductive rights and related issues as health care reform legislation moves forward.