When President Obama vowed to reform the health care system, he promised that no American would lose the coverage that they currently have. If HR 3962 passes as is, Congress will have broken his promise. The Stupak Amendment, which restricts public funding for abortions, was proposed to obtain bipartisan support for the health care bill in the House, but in this regard it was unsuccessful. Although every Republican except one voted for the Stupak Amendment, only one Republican voted for the health care bill. In essence, women’s rights were sacrificed to pass a bill that takes away some of the benefits they already have.
A restriction on the use of public funds to cover abortion was already in place with the Hyde Amendment (1976), but apparently this was not enough. The Stupak Amendment prohibits any coverage of abortion in the public option, except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the life of the mother. It also prevents anyone who receives a federal subsidy from purchasing a plan that covers abortion. Lastly, it bans private insurance companies that participate in the exchange from offering abortion coverage, even to individuals who privately purchase insurance. Eighty-seven percent of insurance plans currently cover it, which they would no longer be able to do if they chose to participate in the new federally subsidized exchange.
If the health care reform bill passes with the Stupak Amendment, women will actually lose coverage instead of gaining more comprehensive insurance. Abortion is a common medical procedure and a standard in insurance plans. More than one in three women will have an abortion by the time they are 45. Under the Stupak Amendment, many women, particularly low- and middle-income individuals who will depend on the government-subsidized program or whose employers opt to use it, will be unable to obtain coverage for this expensive procedure. The Stupak amendment financially discriminates against women preventing them from receiving this medical procedure making it a privilege instead of a legal right.
There have been a few steps to change the Stupak Amendment. The Capps Compromise, introduced in the House, strives to make health care reform abortion neutral. Under this compromise, the government could neither mandate nor prohibit coverage for abortion services in plans in the insurance exchange, and the Hyde Amendment is upheld. However, this has not yet been adopted, and there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that women’s health coverage remains comprehensive.
Abortion is legal and needs to remain accessible. The goal of health care reform is to ensure that all Americans, regardless of income, have access to the medical care they need. However, this amendment undermines that objective. The Stupak Amendment severely limits access to abortion and thus reduces women’s freedom to choose. The ideologies of a few should not restrict the freedom of millions of Americans from obtaining coverage for this crucial and common medical procedure. Health care reform should not reduce medical coverage for women and therefore should not be passed at the expense of women’s rights.
Written on behalf of Women’s Caucus.
Smigelski is a member of the class of 2010.
Anderson is a member of the class of 2010.