House Holds Hearing On Dangerous Abortion Legislation
Bill Abandons Women in Need of Emergency Care, Says ACLU
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WASHINGTON – The health subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing today on an unprecedented bill that would deny basic health care to women seeking abortions, even if their lives are in danger. The bill, the Protect Life Act (H.R. 358), was introduced last month by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), and would effectively ban insurance coverage of abortion in the new health care system. Contrary to existing law, the Pitts bill would also allow hospitals to refuse to provide life-saving abortion care. Current federal law requires hospitals to provide appropriate medical care to a patient facing an emergency, including medically necessary abortions. The Pitts bill would allow a hospital to turn away a pregnant woman experiencing a life-threatening complication without further regard for her health or well-being.
“Representative Pitts’ bill puts women’s health and well-being at grave risk,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “We may not all feel the same way about abortion, but we can agree that hospitals should not abandon a woman whose life may be at risk. Congress has no place telling hospitals that they are free to endanger the life of a woman in need of emergency care.”
The Pitts bill would effectively eliminate comprehensive insurance coverage that includes coverage for abortion in the new health care market. Most insurance plans already cover abortion and the government should not take away insurance coverage that millions of women already have.
The Pitts bill would also allow states to provide broad opt-out opportunities to insurance plans that object to providing coverage for necessary health care services. Under the new health care reform law, insurance companies will be required to provide coverage for certain essential health services. However, the Pitts bill would allow states to undo these patient protections by authorizing states to give exceptions to insurance companies that do not want to cover certain care that the Department of Health and Human Services may determine must be covered, including contraception, sterilization, infertility treatment and screening and counseling for HIV.
The bill also broadens already expansive federal refusal laws that provide immunities to insurance companies, hospitals and other health care providers that refuse to provide or cover abortion services. It has no protections for a patient who is denied medical care, even in emergency situations.
“No woman should have to worry that she will not receive the care she needs at the hospital,” said Vania Leveille, ACLU senior legislative counsel. “Current law correctly requires that hospitals must provide life-saving medical care to their patients and Congress should not put women’s lives at risk simply because some oppose abortion. We urge the committee to reject this extreme measure out of hand.”
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