What impact would 2010 health care reform have on women's reproductive rights?

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Answered by: Lainey, An Expert in the Current Affairs Category
When the House narrowly passed its health care reform bill Saturday night, it approved an underhanded check on women’s reproductive rights. Lawmakers added last-minute language that could prevent millions of Americans from accessing insurance that covers abortions — even if they pay for that coverage out of pocket.

The bill originally included a compromise that prohibited the use of subsidies to pay for most abortions, but allowed for the use of premium contributions and co-payments to pay for abortion coverage. A similar approach allows Medicaid programs to cover abortions using only state funds.

In an attempt to garner support from moderate and conservative Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi abandoned the compromise for a gross modification called the Stupak amendment.

Under the House’s health care reform, Americans could purchase insurance from competing private insurers and possibly from a public option. Happily, the federal government would provide subsidies to people who cannot afford to purchase insurance on their own. But the Stupak amendment states that funds authorized under this act cannot be used to "pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion.”

In other words, no one who receives federal aid to help pay for insurance will be able to choose a plan that covers elective abortion, and the public option will not provide coverage for abortion either.

If insurers want to attract subsidized customers they may have to offer plans that exclude abortion. While insurers could offer plans that target nonsubsidized customers, it is highly unlikely that they will find it beneficial to do so.

Women who have abortion coverage through policies bought by small employers could lose that coverage if their employers decide to transfer to the public option. Even more alarming, large-scale employers may be allowed to participate in the exchange, causing significant numbers of women to lose the abortion coverage they currently have.

Pro-abortion representatives made the responsible choice to keep the reform process moving ahead. Still, the fight will soon resume in the Senate, where the Finance Committee has approved a bill that incorporates the House’s rejected compromise.

President Barack Obama agrees that lawmakers must find a balance, but he warns that extrapolating controversies must not thwart health care reform. In a meeting with the House Democratic leadership, Obama said, “opportunities like this come around maybe once in a generation.”

Opportunities like this are indeed rare, in that they have the potential to counter effective health care practice, infringe upon reproductive rights, and create a whole new generation of impoverished children.

Perhaps blue-dog democrats should have considered the success of the policymaking process when they let their pro-life views contaminate the question of health care reform. As elected representatives, they should have the political savvy to tackle these issues one at a time. The health care discussion is not the venue for a renewed debate of Roe v. Wade, because the complexity of both issues will prevent a fully flushed out, public examination of either.

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