President Obama Regrettably Closes Door on Conversation about Abortion Access in Healthcare Debate

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(PRESS RELEASE) Today, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights Nancy Northup called for more forthright dialogue and vocal leadership on women's health needs in the healthcare reform debate, particularly on the issue of access to abortion. Northup's statement comes after President Barack Obama's nationally televised speech on healthcare last night. In the speech, President Obama asserted that "no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions" under his plan. Northup issued this statement in response:

"It is lamentable that during a major speech on healthcare reform, the President chose to reinforce a longstanding barrier to women's ability to obtain abortion. For years, the federal government has prohibited federal funds from being used to pay for abortion except under extremely narrow circumstances -- even when a woman's health is jeopardized by her pregnancy. The effect has been millions of women, including those living below the poverty line, military personnel and their dependents, women served by the Indian Health Service, Peace Corps volunteers, and federal employees and their dependents who rely solely on these programs for their medical care are deprived of their right to safe, legal abortion.

"Reproductive health, including decisions about whether or not to have children, cut to the core of a woman's daily reality as well as her well-being. The fact that the President can set out to have a comprehensive discussion of healthcare needs, but end up relegating an essential medical service, only used by women, to an outlier status, is disappointing to say the least. This was a missed opportunity to re-examine the meaning of access to a full range of choices in healthcare for women.

"Abortion is the most common surgical procedure in the United States and one in three women will have one in their lifetimes. Private insurers appreciate that protecting women's health means providing women access to the full range of reproductive health services and a majority offer abortion coverage. The Capps Amendment -- which means that no federal monies will be used for abortion, but does secure access to the service--is a defensive move primarily intended to ward off hostile Congressional amendments to women's abortion coverage. The amendment still segregates abortion from the larger field of healthcare, and should not be mistaken as sound policy. After healthcare reform is enacted, we look forward to a forthright dialogue that puts women's healthcare needs above politics."