Historic Vote in Senate to Open Debate on Health Reform Bill Protects Women’s Healthcare Coverage

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(PRESS RELEASE) Late last evening, the Senate voted to open debate on Majority Leader Harry Reid's proposed healthcare bill. The legislation prohibits federal money from being used to pay for abortion, and requires that there be at least one plan in the Health Exchange that offers abortion coverage and at least one plan that does not. In contrast, a bill passed earlier this month by the House of Representatives effectively bans private insurance companies from providing abortion coverage by prohibiting any coverage of abortion in the public option and anyone receiving federal subsidy from purchasing an insurance plan that includes abortion. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights issued this statement in response:

"Last night, we took another major step towards passing legislation that protects women's health coverage. While not ideal, the language in Senator Reid's bill at the very least ensures that millions of women keep the abortion coverage that they have today.

"However, the battle is far from over. We fully anticipate attempts to restrict women's abortion coverage on the Senate floor and are counting on Senators to stand firm against them.

"The Stupak ban poses a tremendous threat to women across the country by making it nearly impossible for private insurers participating in the new insurance marketplace to offer abortion coverage, even when a woman would use her own money to purchase it. It is critical to both women's health and rights that any similar language, or other measures to restrict women's reproductive health care options, that may be offered in the Senate are defeated.

"Health reform promises affordable and expanded coverage — not new and burdensome restrictions on what women currently have."