Anti-Abortion Amendment Introduced in Senate Health Overhaul Debate, Center for Reproductive Rights Calls on Senators to Defeat It

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(PRESS RELEASE) Today, Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and others introduced an amendment that would prohibit individuals receiving federal subsidies from buying private insurance plans that cover abortion and would ban the public option from covering abortion services altogether. Similar to the Stupak-Pitts Amendment passed last month in the House of Representatives, the measure would result in millions of women losing the benefits that they already have. In addition, the amendment allows plan administrators and those running the insurance exchanges or marketplaces to actively discriminate against insurance plans that offer abortion coverage. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, issued this statement in response:

"The Center for Reproductive Rights strongly urges members of the Senate to defeat the Nelson-Hatch anti-abortion amendment. Almost identical to the Stupak-Pitts ban, this amendment reaches far beyond the already-punishing abortion funding restrictions in place. Maintaining the current ban on public funding for abortion services is one offense. But this is a full-scale attack that would dramatically worsen the current state of affairs and prohibit women from using their own money to buy abortion coverage.

"With this amendment, Senators Nelson, Hatch and Brownback are giving Senate Leaders a pig-in-a-poke. This is a healthcare reform bill and their grandstanding risks a dangerous loss of focus. It is also an intolerable threat to women's health.

"Millions of women will lose the abortion benefits they currently have, if this amendment is enacted. It bears repeating that abortion is a constitutionally protected medical service that one in three women will have in their lifetime. Yet some of our elected officials are willing to hijack the entire healthcare reform effort in order to tighten the reins on women's access to abortion.

"There is a credible compromise on the table that would ensure that no federal monies are used to pay for abortion and allow only private funds from premiums to pay for abortion. This language is hardly ideal for women, but in the spirit of a healthcare overhaul, American women ceded ground and compromised. Enough is enough. There can be no further weakening of protections for women and their healthcare needs.

"We call on the Senate to do the right thing. Health reform promises affordable coverage — not new restrictions that take away the benefits that women currently have."