Both Health Reform Bills Change Abortion Status Quo

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Both Health Reform Bills Change Abortion Status Quo

Jessica Arons

Opponents and supporters of abortion rights agreed early on, in theory, to maintain the "status quo" in health reform with "abortion neutral" legislation. Unfortunately, neither the House nor Senate versions preserves the status quo.

This article is reposted with permission from the Center for American Progress.

Opponents and supporters of abortion
rights agreed early on, in theory, to maintain the "status quo" with "abortion
" health care legislation. The idea was that health care
reform is not the appropriate place to continue the fight over abortion and
neither side should attempt to use health care reform as a vehicle to further
expand or restrict access to abortion.

This PDF chart explains the current law on abortion funding and shows how each bill would change the status quo.

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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Unfortunately, neither health reform bill preserves the status quo on abortion.
The Stupak Amendment in the House bill is more restrictive than the Manager’s
Amendment to the Senate bill, but both impose new and unprecedented
restrictions on abortion coverage in private insurance plans. Specifically:

  • Under current law, federal money cannot be spent on an
    abortion unless it threatens the woman’s life or results from rape or
    incest. However, there are no federal restrictions on abortion coverage in
    private health plans and 87 percent of typical employer plans offer
    abortion coverage.
  • Under the Senate bill private insurance companies would
    have to separate private premiums from federal subsidies and only use the
    former to pay for abortion services to ensure that no federal money would
    be spent on abortion beyond what is currently allowed. State insurance
    commissioners would have to make sure companies in their state comply with
    the segregation requirements. Despite these precautions insurers would
    also have to charge enrollees two premiums each month-one for abortion
    coverage and one for all other coverage.
  • The House bill goes beyond prohibitions on direct
    federal funding of abortion and bars federal subsidies to health plans
    that include abortion services. Abortion could be offered in a health plan
    only if the plan accepted no federal subsidies, leaving only 14 percent of
    insurance exchange participants eligible to purchase such a plan, or
    abortion coverage could be purchased through a separate rider that is
    unlikely to be sold or purchased.

The two bills must now be reconciled in order for each
chamber of Congress to take a final vote on a merged health reform bill. Simple
changes to the Senate version, such as removal of the two-premium requirement,
would prevent new restrictions on abortion coverage and preserve the status
quo. But whether those changes can and will be made remains to be seen.