Health Care Reform for Women NOW

We are at a critical juncture in Health Care Reform – the US Senate will soon debate their Bill (as yet with no number) and vote. It will go to a Conference Committee with the recently passed House of Representatives bill AND Stupak Amendment. Hopefully the final bill will be voted up or down by January 1, without the Amendment. See Ellen Shaffer’s update, stay tuned for more information and action recommendations AND post your comments to Ellen’s plea for us to ‘figure out what to do about this’. We cannot sit by like good little girls any longer!

Ellen Shaffer: I think that HR 3962 offers many important improvements over the status quo, in the areas of coverage, affordability and quality, despite significant limitations, I will document these shortly.

The Stupak amendment however is exactly the poison pill it is meant to be. It virtually rolls back women’s current legal right to choose abortion. It is an unacceptable political compromise. It cannot stand. Read it here:

It says that no funds “authorized or appropriated” by HR 3962 can be used to pay for abortion or to cover the costs of any health plan that covers abortion.

Authorization and appropriation are particular acts by Congress to direct public funds to various purposes. That could be what this language means. Which would be bad enough.

The bill also “authorizes” employers and individuals to contribute to health insurance. These are private funds. It could mean that no health insurance plan purchased under the auspices of the bill can be used to pay for abortion. None. It is possible that no health plan that covers abortion could be offered through programs created by this bill. This may be a debatable interpretation. If it is challenged, the Supreme Court will decide.

It adds that supplemental abortion plans cannot be purchased using affordability credits, which are public funds. This is an extra punch to be sure that just in case the Supreme Court balks at outlawing abortion outright for millions of women with employer-provided insurance, women earning up to 400% of the poverty level who take advantage of public subsidies won’t be able to use their insurance once they find out their birth control has failed.

Why are we facing this devil’s bargain at the 11th hour in this campaign? Where was the vigorous organizing and mobilization campaign to get the votes needed to pass this bill without dismantling women’s hard-fought rights? Was it news to anyone that the Catholic bishops oppose abortion, that they have access to an energized constituency, or that this constituency represents a minority of opinion even among Catholics?

This is not a re-election pitch or a solicitation for funds, which usually prompts messages like these from our leaders. It is also not a proposal for a particular action, People will need to figure out together what to do about this.

Planned Parenthood to their credit suggests writing to the President, calling this the outrage that it is and calling for actual leadership. Good start. – Ellen Shaffer

Ellen R. Shaffer, PhD MPH

What are your responses, feelings, suggestions, frustrations – speak out here at COMMENTS.

JUST ADDED :  A Women’s Media Center Exclusive:

Taking the Fall for Health Care Reform?

By Peggy Simpson

The price for health care reform in the House is women’s right to choose—and, adding insult to injury, the deal was negotiated by the first woman to serve as House speaker.

November 9, 2009

Well, now it’s known: it was reproductive rights that were thrown under the train.

During last summer’s chaotic Town Hall meetings, feverish opponents to health care reform set off alarms by saying the proposals would force end-of-life decisions that would “throw grandma under the train.”

That was nonsense.    Read more …

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