The Nation: Missing in Action From the Healthcare Bills - Coverage for Reproductive Health

By Sylvia Law

Sylvia Law is a board member of the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law, Medicine and Psychiatry at New York University Law School.

"In his address to Congress, President Obama recently debunked three myths about his proposed healthcare reform. He refuted claims that access to health insurance would be extended to undocumented immigrants and that "death panels" would limit care for the elderly. He also made it clear that under his proposal, when it comes to the current ban on using federal funding for abortions, nothing will change.

What does it mean for nothing to change? Here is a picture of the state of funding for abortion care.

Abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States. Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and four in ten of these are terminated by abortion. Most women seeking abortions say that they do so because of their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life and their inability to meet those demands under their present circumstances. Abortion rates are much higher in the United States than in any other developed country because the antiabortion movement has successfully opposed fact-based sexuality education and access to contraception"

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Laura MacCleery, the Center's Director of Government Relations and Communications, was also quoted in a healthcare-related article in The Nation:

Healthcare Reform — at the Price of Women's Health?

By Sharon Lerner

"The best approach to abortion-related obstacles to health reform would seem to be neutralizing them, which is exactly what California Representative Lois Capps, a former school nurse from California, tried to do when similar anti-choice measures came up in the House over the summer. Since the law already prohibits using federal funds to pay for abortion in almost all cases, Capps clarified that health reform wouldn't affect the status quo. Now integrated into bills in both the House and the Senate, the Capps language promises not to loosen the existing ban on federal funding for abortions, proposing that insurance plans offering abortion coverage keep public and private funds separate, and use only the private funds to pay for abortions.

The Capps amendment caused 'great unhappiness' among pro-choice supporters...And they worry, reasonably, that the headache of segregating premiums and co-pays from government funds could dissuade some insurance companies from covering abortion services.

Still, pro-choice groups largely held their fire, seeing that, to the extent it circumvented the issue, the Capps language could allow everyone to move past abortion and on to the larger matter at hand. Thus, abortion rights advocates have grudgingly come to see Capps as 'the best in a world of bad options,' as Laura MacCleery, director of government relations at the Center for Reproductive Rights, puts it.

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