Abortion-Exclusive Health Care Reform Is Not Reform At All

Erin Kate Ryan

All proposals to address the abortion funding question have one thing in common: they blithely disregard the effect of such proposals on the actual women and families who choose abortion.

For the past few weeks, pundits
and politicians have been fumbling the abortion funding question when
it comes to health care reform.  Whether it’s an
"abortion neutral" proposal
, supplementary abortion
, shifting the burden to the already over-taxed private abortion
fund network
, or,
at the most extreme, a flat-out bar on abortion coverage in health care
reform, these iterations all have one thing in common:  they blithely
disregard the effect of such proposals on the actual women and families
who choose abortion.   

Here’s why any health care
reform that excludes abortion is not "reform" at all: 

Abortion is part of basic
health care

Abortion care is part of reproductive
health care, a basic health care need.  Women and families need
access to the full range of basic health care to make healthy decisions
about their lives and futures.   

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True health care reform
must mandate that all health care plans meet a minimum benefits standard
that includes abortion, because abortion is an essential health benefit
and is one of the most common surgical procedures – a procedure that
one in every three women in the U.S. will have.  

Remember: the women and families
who choose abortion aren’t trying to score political points or send
a message to their senators – they’re simply trying to make the
best, healthiest decision for themselves and for families they have
now.  If health care needs, not politics, were driving health care
reform, then the mandate for abortion coverage would be clear. 

Barring abortion coverage
would be an expansion of existing inequality.

The other part of this picture,
of course, is that women who currently do not have abortion coverage
must make extreme and unfair sacrifices in order to make the decision
that is best for their families.  Women cut back on food for their
families, skip utility payments, sell necessities such as family cars,
and even delay their rent in order to cover the cost of their abortions. 

Ever since the Hyde Amendment
passed in 1976, banning federal Medicaid coverage of abortion, private
abortion funds have been doing what the government should be doing:
giving women the resources they need to obtain abortion care. 
And even with the tireless work of more than 100 grassroots abortion
funds and thousands of volunteers, there are tens of thousands of women
who cannot afford their abortions each year.   

Any health care reform which
would perpetuate – in fact, expand
– the inequality inherent in the status quo is a travesty, pure and

And prohibiting abortion coverage
under health care reform likely would expand that inequality. 
If health care reform were to bar coverage for abortion, millions more
women would stand to lose the private abortion coverage they have now,
resulting in an entirely new population reliant on abortion funds for
a basic health care procedure.  The private sphere simply cannot
meet such staggering need. 

Nor should it. 

U.S. voters want
abortion to be covered by health care reform.

The good news is that we’ve
proven willing to shed ourselves of this unfair status quo.  Nearly
three quarters of us see that reproductive health care, abortion included,
is basic to the health and wellbeing of ourselves and our neighbors. 

The media may be busy selling
us a different story, but the truth is that over
70% of U.S. voters support covering reproductive health
care, including abortion, in health care reform.
  Even more-an impressive 72%-said
they’d be "angry" if Congress mandated by law that abortion would
not be covered under a national health care plan. Indeed, nearly 2/3
of U.S. voters would rather have no heath care reform than have
reform that excludes reproductive health care services such as abortion.

The vast majority of voters
can hardly be cast as a special interest group keen on holding up health
care reform.  If that mantle belongs to anyone, it’s the disingenuous
politicians exaggerating the sentiments surrounding abortion coverage
in order to blockade reform that the vast majority of families want
and need.  Or the complicit mainstream media, happy to tell whichever
story has the most dramatic potential, with little regard for what is

We know that the real stories,
however, can be found in kitchen table conversations or in the act of
balancing a checkbook.  They can be found in the decisions that
women and families are making every day, and in the health care choices
made by hundreds of thousands of women and families each year.   

We have before us a historic
opportunity to redress decades of unequal treatment and poor and absent
health care. An opportunity to reform a system that undervalues the
real and complex decisions that women and families face.   

We’re ready to belong
to a society that provides women and their families with the tools they
need to make good decisions about the long-term health of themselves
and their families. 

If only politicians and the
media would catch up.  

Take action! Contact
your representative with the message that you stand for women and their
families – that you stand for abortion in health care reform.
Write a letter to the editor declaring that abortion is a basic health
care need.  Women and families in the U.S. can’t afford a silent

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Reproductive rights are a public health issue. That's a fact.

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