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11.09.09 - (PRESS RELEASE) Today, House Democratic leaders agreed to allow a vote on an anti-abortion amendment offered by Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Representative Joe Pitts (R-PA). The measure, reportedly crafted to appease the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, would require the purchase of riders for coverage of abortion services in the Health Exchange and prohibit coverage of abortion for those using the public option. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, issued this statement in response:
"The Center for Reproductive Rights strongly opposes the Pitts/Stupak amendment which would result in millions of women losing the benefits they already have and force them to buy insurance that does not meet all of their medical needs. The House Leadership's decision to allow a vote on this amendment has not been made in a way that represents all Americans.
"It is unconscionable that in the end the anti-choice lobby has been permitted to completely undermine honest and credible efforts to neutralize the debate over abortion coverage. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has apparently been given veto power over legislation intended to provide affordable healthcare coverage to all Americans, including women. Members of Congress need to look past this momentary disruption and establish a baseline that secures women's health as part of reform.
"Today, most private insurers offer abortion coverage. This amendment would require women to purchase additional abortion coverage above and beyond their primary benefits package. Research has shown that "abortion riders," currently policy in five states, are ineffective. Women are unlikely to pay additional money up front for abortion coverage because they don't plan on having an unintended or health-threatening pregnancy. And for that reason, health insurers are unlikely to even offer the separate rider as an option.
"We call on lawmakers to do the right thing — don't allow women's health to become a casualty in this debate. A vote for the Pitts/Stupak amendment is a terrible price for American women to pay for health care reform."