It is with mixed emotions that I write with news that, tonight, the House of Representatives passed the health-reform bill.
I am extremely disappointed to tell you that the final package includes the insulting, unworkable Nelson restriction on abortion coverage in the new system.
As you may recall, the Nelson language requires Americans in the new system to write two separate checks if the health plan they choose includes abortion coverage. This unacceptable bureaucratic stigmatization could cause insurance carriers to stop covering abortion care. This would represent a major setback, given that more than 85 percent of private plans cover this care for women today.
Despite this totally unacceptable anti-choice provision, reform will bring more than 30 million Americans into a system that includes affordable family-planning services and maternity care for women. It also outlaws some discriminatory insurance-industry practices that make health care more expensive for women. Improving women’s access to birth control and prenatal care and making reproductive-health care more affordable are also at the core of our mission.
Here at NARAL Pro-Choice America, we struggled with the dilemma of how to respond to a bill that included both positive and disappointing provisions for reproductive health. Ultimately, we determined that we could not endorse this bill due to the abortion-coverage restrictions. But, we also could not, in good conscience, call for the bill’s outright defeat and deny millions of American women the promise of better—although imperfect—health-care services that are an important part of our pro-choice values.
That these abortion-coverage restrictions remained in the bill is terrible news for all of us who believe that American women should not have to sacrifice their right to choose in order to gain ground in other areas of health care. It is an outrage that anti-choice politicians such as Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) used women’s reproductive health as a bargaining chip.
But, believe me when I say that Congress and the White House have not heard the last from us. NARAL Pro-Choice America does not accept this bill as the final word on how abortion coverage will be defined in the new health-care system. We are committed to finding opportunities to repeal dangerous and unacceptable restrictions as the new system takes shape.
Thank you for standing with us for so many months. We will keep fighting to elect pro-choice members who share our pro-choice values.
President, NARAL Pro-Choice America