Sunday, November 8, 2009

Statement Regarding Last Night's Vote

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act (or HCA), a bill designed to make health care more affordable and accessible by placing stricter codes on insurance companies. The bill, passed in a narrow 220-215 vote, disallows insurance providers from denying coverage due to "preexisting conditions" or charging higher premiums based on gender.

The bill did, however, pass with the Stupak Amendment in tact. This amendment bars private insurance companies receiving federal subsidy from covering abortion procedures (even if the insurer previously covered it). Patrons of the insurance companies have no say in whether or not their insurer becomes federally subsidized, but it is the patrons who will be left to front the bill from a federally-mandated lack of coverage. Women covered by these insurance providers have the option to purchase an "abortion plan" in addition to their basic health coverage. Touted by some to be a "compromise" with antichoice factions of the legislature, the passage of the Stupak amendment has already garnered a wealth of criticism from women's groups and medical organizations alike.

As a reproductive justice advocacy resource, CPC Watch as an entity applauds any effort to make health care more affordable. While we generally lean to the "left" of social debates, we are non-partisan and strive to keep partisan sectarianism far from our ranks. However, we simply cannot hail last night's vote as a victory in women's health. Any effort to increase the affordability of basic health care cannot, in our opinion, leave certain facets of health care in the dust. We believe that abortion, a procedure that 1 in 3 women will require in her reproductive life, is no less a vital medical service than any other reproductive health procedure. The idea that a woman will actually plan on needing an abortion and go ahead and purchase additional coverage is laughable at best; our work advocating for women's health has told time and time again that women never plan on needing an abortion, and it is ridiculous to expect them to.

Imagine your insurance provider was restricted from covering open heart surgery for some vague reason regarding public morality. You could obtain coverage that was affordable and encouraged you to receive regular preventative care and cardiovascular exams, but in the even you needed bypass surgery you would not be covered. For those concerned with paying for heart surgery out of pocket, the provider offered a "heart surgery plan" for an additional cost. Being a generally healthy human being, maybe young and active with a decent enough diet, my guess is you wouldn't bat an eye at this extra expense; open heart surgery is something very few people expect to need, and yet many require such a procedure, even if they have taken necessary precautions to avoid it. Obviously there is no "moral dilemma" surrounding open heart surgery, so this scenario seems ridiculous. But for those of us who believe abortion qualifies as basic health care as much as heart surgery, the passage of the Stupak amendment is insulting.

Given the percentage of women who will have an abortion before age 45, we have to ask if Representative Stupak's expectation for women to pay more for "abortion coverage" is even legal given the bill's restriction against higher premiums based on sex and gender. After all, an additional "abortion plan" is hardly something a man would or could buy for himself, and while comprehensive men's health is 100% covered by the HCA, a portion of coverage for basic women's health care requires additional payments.

The question that remains is, should we laud the passage of what is indeed a step in the right direction for the majority of the country's health care needs, or should we reject this bill outright due to its sweeping cut of basic women's health coverage? Do we hope for better in the Senate, or are we supposed to get used to these capitulations disguised as bi-partisan compromises?

Whatever happens, we can assure our supporters that we will continue to spread the truth about women's reproductive health and pregnancy options, and will continue to fight for our overlying mission to ensure full, unbridled reproductive justice for each and every woman and girl.

In Solidarity Always,

Lauren Guy-McAlpin
Crisis Pregnancy Center Watch
Project Coordinator

Additional Commentary

In Pelosi's House, 64 Democrats Sell Women Out -- Huffington Post
The Answer to Stupak? Overturn Hyde Now. -- RH Reality Check
Whose health care victory? -- Feministing

Take Action Against Stupak-Pitts

via Planned Parenthood Action Fund
via NARAL Pro-Choice America

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