A Federal Employee Expresses Outrage on Stupak

Carole Joffe

A federal employee--barred by the Hyde Amendment from insurance coverage for abortion--incurs costs of $9000.00 to end a pregnancy in which the fetus is missing major portions of its brain, skull, and scalp.

This article appeared in the Fall 2009 issue of Ms. Magazine and is reprinted here with permission from Ms.

“Our medical experts have determined that your life was not in
danger and you could have carried the pregnancy to term. And, by the
way, you owe us $9,000.”

Her voice
breaking, D.J. Feldman, a Washington, D.C. federal employee, recently
spoke to the press about her struggles with her insurance company after
she aborted a much-desired pregnancy because of a fetal diagnosis of
anencephaly (the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull and
scalp). The insurance would only cover abortion in the case of rape,
incest or a threat to her life, so the fact that if Feldman had
continued the pregnancy, it would have been both physically and
emotionally grueling—resulting either in a fetal demise, a stillbirth,
or a live birth of a newborn who would quickly die—had no effect on the
insurance company’s decision.

The
primary culprit in this situation is not really Feldman’s insurance
carrier, however, but the U.S. Congress. For decades it has imposed
such unconscionable restrictions on abortion coverage for federal
employees, as well as on women in the military, Native Americans using
government provided health facilities and women on Medicaid in a
majority of states.

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Feldman is speaking out
now because of her outrage that the notorious Stupak-Pitts amendment to
the House health reform measure would extend such federal bans on
abortion coverage to the millions of women who are enrolled in the
private insurance market. Under this amendment,
any insurance plan that wishes to be part of the new national
health-care exchange would be prohibited from offering abortion
coverage, although most insurance plans currently offer this coverage.

As Nancy Northrup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights,
which organized the press conference at which Feldman spoke, put it:
“The ban on abortion coverage represents an enormous and unprecedented
incursion into the terms of the private insurance market….Stupak-Pitts
would regulate abortion coverage for people working for private
employers or those who are self-employed.”

The press conference also featured a television advertisement that has just been produced by the Center
which effectively points to the unfairness—if not the absurdity—of such
a ban. The ad will run on MSNBC, other cable stations and media
websites.

As traumatic as D.J. Feldman’s
story is, she acknowledges that she is more fortunate than many other
women in her situation, since she and her husband were able to pay for
her abortion themselves. But she doesn’t want other women forced into a
similar situation, especially those without extra financial resources.
Feldman has not only spoken to the press but also visited various
Congressional offices to speak against Stupak-Pitts. “I realized I had
a moral obligation to speak out,” she said.

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