Anti-Choice Bill Would Impede Access to Critical Health Care; ACLU Says Ideologues Again Pushing Agenda At Women's Expense

September 24, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – With access to reproductive health care nationwide increasingly jeopardized by the imposition of religious beliefs, the American Civil Liberties Union today urged the House of Representatives to protect both religious freedom and abortion rights by defeating a misleadingly named anti-abortion bill.

“Proponents of this bill will attempt to portray this debate as a straightforward contest between religion and reproductive rights,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office. “But what this bill is really about is pushing a narrow agenda that endangers women’s health and lives.”

The so-called “Abortion Non-Discrimination Act” (H.R. 4691) would allow a broad range of health care entities — from hospitals to insurance companies to HMOs — to refuse to provide abortion services or information about those services.

The ACLU said the bill could allow hospitals to turn away women who need emergency abortions because they are hemorrhaging or experiencing heart failure, despite federal and state laws that generally require hospitals to treat patients in medical emergencies. It would also authorize health care entities to refuse to provide information about abortion. If a low-income woman asked her Medicaid provider for information about how to end a pregnancy resulting from rape, that provider could refuse to discuss the subject even though federal and state laws entitle Medicaid patients to coverage for abortion in cases of rape.

Supporters of the bill, which has reportedly been heavily lobbied for by the Catholic Conference, have repeatedly framed the legislation as a measure to protect religious freedom. Catherine Weiss, the Director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, however, called such arguments “one-sided” and “misleading.”

“A pregnant woman has a right to complete and accurate information about all of her options and access to the option she chooses. Congress should not sacrifice her rights in its rush to satisfy the demands of the religiously affiliated health care industry,” Weiss added.

The ACLU’s letter on the bill can be found at:

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