There was cheering in the bar on Saturday night among my friends when word came via iPhone that health care reform had passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. I run with a predominantly liberal and young crowd, soon to be seeking media jobs that hardly exist anymore and even fewer with benefits. Health care reform is important.
“The bill that the House has produced will provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality, affordable options for those who don't; and lower costs for American families and American businesses,” President Barack Obama said in the Rose Garden Saturday. “This bill is change that the American people urgently need.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Which is why I was so very disappointed to read about the “compromise” on abortion rights that made it in late Saturday: suddenly, the Hyde Amendment ban on using federal funds for abortion, a very legal medical procedure, was not enough to mollify “pro-life” politicians (Democrat and Republican) in the House.
For one thing, I take issue with the term “pro-life.” It sets up the false dichotomy that if you are in favor of abortion rights for women, you are in some way “pro-death.” That’s ridiculous and unfair.
But I digress: the addition to H.R.3200, also called “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009,” made Saturday would stop federal subsidies for health insurance plans that cover elective abortions. This goes much further than the intent of the Hyde Amendment, and would most likely have the most effect on low- and middle-income women.
Should America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 be signed into law with these provisions, it will put an even larger burden on women seeking abortions. Private health insurance companies, wanting their insurance plans to be eligible for the federal subsidies, will eliminate elective abortion coverage from their plans. The government-run insurance plans, to be created by the legislation, would not be able to cover elective abortions at all (even though people who purchase health insurance through the public option would be paying premiums just like in private insurance).
The supposed solution to this is that women will pay, out of pocket, for “riders” to specifically cover abortions. This is absurd. No woman expects to have an abortion; there is a reason it’s called an unplanned pregnancy. Even if such a rider becomes available from private insurance companies, I opine that it would be prohibitively expensive because so few women would actually purchase it. This supposed solution is essentially worthless.
I have written before that denying federal funds to help women pay for abortions is unfair — it penalizes women who are already economically vulnerable and denies them access to a medical procedure the Supreme Court has ruled they have every right to have. But the so-called compromises of H.R.3200 are beyond the pale. They have the potential to limit not only women on Medicare’s access to abortion, but women who pay for their own insurance or are covered through their employers.
Obama is right: America needs health care reform. But this cost is unfair to women.
Erin K. O'Neill is a former assistant director of photography and current page designer for the Missourian. She is a master's degree candidate at the Missouri School of Journalism.