By Erin Matson, NOW Action Vice President
We’ve been hustling here at the Action Center in light of this past week’s events. I’m sure by now you’ve heard quite a bit about the House-passed Stupak-Pitts Amendment to the health care reform bill. Make no mistake — if adopted in the Senate and included in the final bill, the Stupak-Pitts Amendment will be the worst setback to women’s constitutional right to abortion since that right was recognized in 1973. It’s a huge deal, and talking heads are downplaying its reach and significance.
I want to make a few things clear about the amendment, especially how it will affect young women and women with incomes on the lower end of the spectrum.
1. Women who receive a government subsidy (i.e., individuals with incomes up to $88,000/year for a family of four), will not be able to receive insurance coverage for abortion.
2. Private insurance companies would be prohibited from covering abortion if even one person participating in a plan that was offered through the new regional health insurance exchanges was receiving a government subsidy for health care.
3. Women who use 100% of their own money to participate in a plan offered through health insurance exchanges where at least one person in that plan receives a government subsidy would be prevented from having abortion coverage, unless they purchase an additional “abortion rider.”
4. Private insurance companies that currently cover abortion would be discouraged from doing so entirely — because they would have to modify their plans to participate in proposed health exchanges. (Many private insurance plans currently provide abortion coverage.)
5. A public health insurance option that would be established by the federal government and paid for by individual premium payments is also prohibited from providing abortion coverage. It is estimated that those low- and moderate-income individuals and families who do not have employer-based health insurance would be joining the public plan.
This amendment effectively bans abortion for all low-income and many middle-income women. And the notion that women can just purchase an “abortion rider” — “just in case” insurance that comes with an additional cost — ignores the realities of women’s reproductive needs and financial limitations.
To state the obvious, no one plans an unintended pregnancy. No one plans a pregnancy that goes wrong and must be terminated. But I don’t expect Reps. Bart Stupak and Joseph Pitts to understand that. Hit the phones, call your senator and ask your friends to do the same.