Health care amendment excludes abortion coverage
By Alyssa Figueroa
One may not initially consider the hidden consequences of the “abortion bans” included in the health care bill recently passed by the House. At first glance the idea of universal health care sounds wholly inclusive. After all, those who cannot afford health care, mostly people from the middle and working class, will now have access to it. However, if this new, abortion-related amendment is tied onto the final health care bill, it raises an important question: Who exactly does “universal” include?
The amendment offered by Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.) was passed in the House 240 to 194 in early November. Under this bill, known as the Stupak Amendment, the government insurance plan will not cover abortion procedures except in cases of rape, incest or medical risks. It also bans women who receive federal health subsidies from buying insurance plans that cover abortion procedures.
Before the vote, Stupak told the House, “Let us stand together on principle—no public funding for abortions, no public funding for insurance policies that pay for abortions.”
The Hyde Amendment has been banning federal funding for abortion since 1976, but, contrary to popular belief, the Stupak Amendment goes beyond current law. Medicaid, a federally subsidized program, currently covers most abortion procedures in 17 states, which the amendment would ban. Also, not only would it prohibit women receiving federally funded affordability tax credits from buying a private insurance plan that covers abortion, but it would also ban private insurance companies from covering abortion procedures if anyone on the plan receives those affordability tax credits.
By allowing this amendment to pass with a health care bill, women’s rights are excluded from the concept of “health care for all.” It does not allow for abortion coverage, thereby disempowering women.
“It is a way of undermining women’s rights and their whole set of bodily needs,” says Ithaca College professor Zillah Eisenstein, a feminist activist. Eisenstein says the idea of a public option implies that “everyone has a ‘right’ to the health of their body… abortion is part of a woman’s ‘right’ to health.”
The amendment especially excludes lower income women from universal health care. It would force women who receive federal health care funding and who want an abortion to pay out of pocket. Abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy cost about $350-900. So does “universal” mean the U.S. will now reach out to citizens who cannot afford health care, or just men who cannot afford health care?
It is also crucial to note that although abortion is technically legal in the U.S., access to abortion has been made more difficult by the pro-life movement. Currently, 87 percent of U.S. counties do no have an abortion provider. Arbitrary clauses and bans in legislation, distorted scientific information and parental-involvement laws all make getting an abortion today harder than it was after Roe v. Wade in 1973.
“There is a huge difference between freedom of choice and being able to get what you choose,” Eisenstein says. “So legally, women still have the right to abortion. Practically it has been enormously limited.”
This new amendment, which may pass along in the health care bill, will work to further limit women’s rights, especially for low-income women, and, most crucially, allowing women to be excluded from the concept of “universal.”
Alyssa Figueroa is a sophomore journalism major and does not want to be your baby mama. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.D