House Hears Testimony On Bill That Would Further Limit Insurance Coverage For Abortion Care

February 8, 2011 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The Constitution Subcommittee of the House Committee on the Judiciary today heard testimony on a dangerous bill that would restrict abortion coverage for women who depend on the federal government for their health care and extend several unjust prohibitions into the private sector. The bill, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3), was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and would greatly limit women’s access to insurance coverage for abortion.

The American Civil Liberties Union opposes the bill.

“This bill is an attack on basic health care for women,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Abortion is a legal medical procedure; the government has no business intruding on a woman’s private and personal health care decisions in this way. We urge members of the House of Representative to reject this unjust and discriminatory bill.”

The bill, a multi-pronged and deeply misguided measure, attacks access to abortion on a variety of fronts. It would permanently deny abortion coverage to women and families who rely on the federal government for their health insurance. Each year, Congress must consider several provisions on appropriations bills that single out and exclude abortion from a host of programs that fulfill the government’s obligation to provide health care to certain populations including Native Americans, federal employees, Peace Corps volunteers, poor women and women in federal prisons. The Smith bill makes all of those provisions permanent, greatly harming millions of women who receive health care services through these programs, including low-income women of color who are disproportionately impacted by these provisions.

Additionally, the bill goes after abortion access in the private insurance market by resurrecting former Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-MI) insurance coverage ban in the health care exchanges, which was debated and defeated in the last Congress. Currently, a majority of insurance plans offer abortion coverage, along with other pregnancy-related services, labor and delivery, prenatal care and care for miscarriages and the Stupak coverage ban would virtually eliminate that coverage within the exchanges. Moreover, the tax provisions of the Smith bill penalize small businesses and employers that provide insurance that includes abortion coverage, making it less likely that private insurance companies will offer abortion coverage.

Finally, the Smith bill also alters requirements under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act that require hospitals to provide appropriate medical care to patients needing emergency care, including medically necessary abortions. The Smith bill would provide a loophole in the federal law for public hospitals that refuse to provide an emergency abortion to a woman, even if the abortion is necessary to save her life.

“This bill is dangerous to women and violates their constitutionally protected rights. Congress should be focusing on the concerns of all Americans, not wasting its time interfering in private medical decisions by taking away insurance coverage that most health plans provide today,” said Vania Leveille, ACLU senior legislative counsel. “This bill should be rejected by members of the subcommittee and of the entire House of Representatives.”

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