The U.S. Senate sent a last-minute holiday “gift” which half the country will find difficult to accept. In a disappointing move that sets women’s reproductive rights back, the U.S. Senate voted on final passage of its version of health care reform. Last weekend Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sealed the 60th vote by caving into Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-Neb.) demands with a “compromise” that would eventually do away with private as well as public insurance coverage for abortion care. This dangerous provision not only further stigmatizes abortion care but it makes it nearly impossible for any health plans to offer comprehensive coverage.
Now the bill must be reconciled with the House version, before being sent to the President’s desk.
Is there a chance to fix the bill during that final conference phase? We are certainly hopeful. Our grassroots are mobilized and already working to strip the dangerous language out of the final health reform bill.
Our energies will be focused on the sweeping anti-abortion provision because it would enshrine into the country’s first-ever comprehensive health care reform legislation the dangerous principle that women may be singled out for denial of legal health care.
We are not in the business of trying to ruin the prospects of health care reform. The bill’s elimination of gender rating and of denial of coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions are welcome (although we worry about enforcement of these provisions). On balance, however, this bill harms women. When a small group of men set out to determine what rights women can exercise over their own bodies, it’s sexism, not health care. NOW calls on Congress and President Obama to recognize women’s fundamental right to the full range of health care services, including abortion care.