Roundup: Senate Bill Maintains Abortion Coverage, DC Insurance Commissioner Says No to Birth Control

Amie Newman

The Senate health care reform bill was released last night and maintains the status quo on abortion access, throwing out any abortion coverage bans a la the Stupak Amendment; Catholics argue against the idea that banning private insurance coverage for abortion in the House bill was some kind of common ground effort; and DC disses birth control coverage.

Senate Bill Maintains Private Insurance Coverage for Abortion

As Jodi writes today, Senator Reid released the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act last night – and women’s health advocates can breathe a sigh of relief.  The bill, which would cost $848 billion over ten years, contains provisions to ensure that private insurance coverage for abortion services are retained. According to The Progress Report put out by Think Progress,

Under the merged Senate bill, federal dollars could be used only to pay for abortions when the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother or results from rape or incest; private premiums would be used to pay for any other type of abortion, including those for health reasons. Each plan in the Exchange would decide whether to cover additional abortion services and at least one plan in each market must offer abortion services and one plan must not. In the public option, the Secretary of Health and Human Services can cover abortion only if the procedure is financed with private funds. 

This is a complete departure from the House bill’s Stupak Amendment which bars even private insurance coverage from covering abortion for women, going far beyond simply maintaining the Hyde Amendment (which bars federal dollars from paying for abortion services except in particularly extrreme circumstances). 

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John Richards, writing on the The Nation’s web site, calls The Stupak Amendment "draconian" and notes that the Senate rejected "anti-choice extremes" in their bill. But he says more hard work is still ahead:

Pelosi will have her work cut out for her. And she will, unquestionably, need an assist from the White House.

In other words, while the Senate may clean up some of the mess, it will
take a major intervention by President Obama to wrangle the votes
needed to pass a healthcare reform bill that maintains existing rules
with regard to abortion.

For a quick break-down of exactly what how the Senate bill treats insurance coverage of abortion, read Jodi’s post

Placing Your Faith In Health Care Reform?

Jon O’Brien, President of Catholics for Choice responds eloquently, as a man of faith, to Jim Wallis’ (Christian leader and writer/author who has been involved in the common ground efforts put forth by President Obama) claims that the culture wars have "started up again" as a result of the health care reform bill. In Wallis’ post, he lends credence to anti-choice Democrats charge to restrict abortion access by chalking it up to their feelings of exclusion around the abortion conversation (I am not making this up):

I believe there were some sincere early efforts by leaders on both
sides to abide by what became known as "abortion neutrality." But
somewhere along the line, the process broke down. Instead of building
on the initial common ground of neutrality and bringing both sides
together to hammer out compromises, many pro-life Democrats felt
excluded from the conversation about how abortion would be addressed in
the bill.

But Jon O’Brien doesn’t buy it:

Jim is mistaken. The antiabortion side decided that it
was not interested in any compromise, hence the "my way or the highway"
showdown between on one side Bart Stupak and the US Conference of
Catholic Bishops and Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership on the
other. Therefore they pushed us beyond a compromise, "the current law,
abortion neutrality and the status quo." In fact, this is particularly
hard to fathom–given the demand by Bart Stupak and others that the
bill would fail if their language, and no version thereof was
acceptable, was not given a vote and included in the final bill to pass
the House of Representatives.

O’Brien’s point-by-point analysis of and response to Wallis underscores exactly why the Stupak Amendment was/is as far from "compromise" as one can get when it comes to abortion access under health care reform. 

Tapped also has a great piece by Sarah Posner on faith and The Stupak Amendment. Posner argues that the fight for The Stupak Amendment was no common ground effort at all but solely about blocking legal access to abortion:

The anti-choice Democrats who allowed Bart Stupak to be their ringleader now risk being seen as more aligned with the religious right than with their own party. As I reported at RD [Ed note: Religion Dispatches],
while the Catholic bishops were in Nancy Pelosi’s office late that
Friday night, the religious right — and Democrats for Life of America
— were rallying the religious right’s base to push members of Congress
to settle for nothing less than the Stupak amendment. Their goal, as we
know, is blocking access to legal abortion, and a new study from the
George Washington University School of Public Health and Health
Services maintains the Stupak amendment would, over time, end all insurance coverage for abortion services.

Washington DC Insurance Commissioner Says No Birth Control Coverage for You!

Washington DC mayor Adrian Fenty appointed Gennet Purcell as the district’s new insurance commissioner this summer. While the appointment was covered in the media, one recent change under Purcell’s watch has somehow flown under the radar. 

Under Purcell’s watch, private insurance companies operating in Washington DC are now allowed to opt out of covering contraception in individual plans. This coverage is considered "non-mandatory" by the insurance commissioner and some women are finding their birth control coverage suddenly dropped. 

A petition has been started, on twitter, to raise awareness and grab the commissioner’s attention that allowing insurance coverage of birth control to become non-mandatory for those not in a group plan is unacceptable. You can sign here. 

More Reproductive and Sexual Health News From Around the Web:


Poll: Most
favor tight
abortion language
United Press International

– Fallacies on
Abortion Coverage

From Hyde to
Stupak, over 30 years of limiting access to

discuss authority over Catholic colleges
San Jose Mercury News

Stung by
restrictions in healthcare bill,
abortion rights
supporters fight back
Angeles Times

abortion amendment
Salt Lake Tribune

Matthew Yglesias
» Study: Stupak Would Lead to
Abortion Coverage Phaseout

Reid modifies
abortion provisions
but eschews Stupak language

Read The Abortion Compromise
In Harry Reid’s Senate Health Care Bill
Huffington Post

Mexico anti-abortion fight moves
to federal level
The Associated

Wording Angers
Abortion Opponents
New York Times

restrictions on

Birth control: the most
effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Times Online

Manila warned
on population
Business Mirror

Will You Have
To Ask Your Employer For The "Abortion Rider”?

US funding
revamps African contraceptive drive

Clerics role
sought for
The Nation, Pakistan

Obama Opposes
Pro-Life Efforts in
Health Care Reform
The New American

SarahPAC scrubbed site to ward off
pro-life critics
Raw Story

Leader Claims
Pro-Life Democrats
Will Oppose Stupak Next Time

Accepting the
Stupak Amendment
The Atlantic

Mr. Stupak: I
Can Stand the Heat
Huffington Post

Why I love
Sarah Palin
National Post

Catholic Church, and Politics of Compromise
The Phoenix

Abortion Measure Stopped…for the Moment

Pro-Choice Dems Seize
On GWU Study On The Stupak Amendment



Birth control vaginal ring
launched in India
Times of India

pro-life commitment
in defense of CCHD
Catholic News

loving families on National
Adoption Day
The Desert Sun



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

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