In January 1973, the Supreme Court ruled women have the constitutional right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy to term or to have an abortion. This landmark decision was Roe v. Wade.
Yet, 37 years later, we face the remarkable possibility that the United States Congress will enact health care reform legislation that singles out abortion from all other medical procedures, with unprecedented and unnecessary restrictions. Indeed, these restrictions threaten to prevent women who will gain access to health insurance from obtaining abortion coverage and could also result in women losing abortion coverage they currently have.
Anti-choice organizations and lawmakers are working tirelessly to enact restrictive laws and regulations that result in additional barriers for women seeking health care—all in an effort to chip away at Roe. In that sense, anti-choice legislators have succeeded in the U.S. House of Representatives by passing the most dangerous obstacle to abortion care in decades — the Stupak abortion amendment.
In effect, the Stupak amendment, if enacted, would ban private health insurance coverage of abortion for millions of women, many of whom pay for their insurance with their own money. This amendment marks an unprecedented departure from existing federal law affecting individuals who pay for their own health insurance.
Because the majority of private health insurance plans already offer abortion coverage, the House bill will actually cause women to lose insurance coverage they currently have.
It is indeed disturbing, 37 years after the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the right to choose abortion, that Congress would enact health care reform legislation that isolates abortion from all other medical procedures, and severely limits the ability of women to purchase health insurance that includes abortion coverage.
Planned Parenthood supports meaningful health care reform that expands women’s access to health care coverage, but it must not come at the expense of coverage women currently have.
It is incumbent upon Congress to remove these harmful restrictions on abortion from the final health care reform bill. Women will not stand for their benefits being stripped. Women will reject a health plan that puts a special interest agenda before the health care they need. There is no better time to remind our elected leaders of this than on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
January 22, 2010