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Federal Employees & Reproductive Health Care

A closer look at the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP)

DJ and her husband were looking forward to having their first child. Then DJ´s doctor gave the couple devastating news: the baby DJ was carrying had a severe neural defect and would die either before or shortly after birth. The doctor advised DJ to end the pregnancy immediately for her overall health and wellbeing. DJ had an abortion soon after.

But even though the abortion was determined to be medically necessary, DJ´s insurance refused to cover it. Why? Because DJ is an employee of the U.S. government, which bans its employees from choosing a healthcare plan that covers abortion.

The Government's Policy is Discriminatory

Congress does not dictate what should be covered or excluded under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP) for any other medical service besides abortion. Insurance companies that participate in the FEHBP are only permitted to cover abortion in extremely narrow circumstances — when a woman's life is endangered or when her pregnancy is the result of incest or rape. In contrast, abortion is commonly included as a covered procedure by health insurance plans offered in the private sector and by HMOs.

As a result of the ban, millions of women who rely on the plan are unfairly denied a health service that only they need and are forced to pay for it out of pocket. For DJ and her husband, the bill they were expected to pay amounted to $9,000.

The FEHBP abortion funding restriction was first enacted in 1983 and has been retained in the appropriations bill by anti-choice members of Congress every year since with the exception of 1993 and 1994.

The Federal Government and Your Health

The FEHBP is yet another instance of how women who rely on the federal government for their health coverage have been denied access to abortion. Since 1977, the Hyde Amendment has banned Medicaid funding for abortion with very few exceptions.

Futhermore, Washington, DC has been prohibited by Congress from using even its own funds to cover abortion services for poor women. On July 16, 2009, the House of Representatives voted to discontinue the DC ban on abortion funding, and the Center is calling on the Senate to do the same.

A key goal of the Center's Federal Policy Agenda is securing access to safe abortion for all women. We have persistently urged lawmakers to remove all federal funding restrictions on abortion. Now we are calling on Congress to lift the ban on abortion coverage when it votes on the 2010 appropriation for the FEHBP.


Some Facts:

Arrow Other than abortion services, Congress does not dictate what benefits must be offered or what benefits must be excluded [1].

Arrow Approximately 25% of all U.S. pregnancies end in abortion [2], and it is estimated that one in three American women will undergo an abortion procedure before turning 45 [3].

Arrow In 2005, the median cost of an abortion at 10 weeks gestation was $430 and the median cost of abortion procedures at later gestations was $1,260. [4].

Arrow Thousands of federal employees live at or below the federal poverty level [5].

Arrow The Congressional Budget Office has concluded that permitting health plans to cover abortions under the FEHBP does not add to the cost of the insurance premiums [6].

Learn more about the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (PDF) >

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1. Senator Mikulski, Cong. Rec. S11499 (daily ed. Aug.5, 1995)

2. Rachel K. Jones, et al., Patterns in the socioeconomic characteristics of women obtaining abortions in 2000–2001, 34 Persp. on Sexual & Reprod. Health 226, 229 (2002).

3. Guttmacher Institute, Get “In the Know”: Questions About Pregnancy, Contraception, and Abortion, http://www.guttmacher.org/in-the-know/in-the-know. pdf (last visited June 29, 2009) (citing AGI, State Facts About Abortion, 2003).(March 16, 2007) (on file with Bonnie Scott Jones).

4. Id.

5. Senator Snowe, Cong. Rec. S10245 (daily ed. Sept. 11, 1996).

6. Id.