Protecting Life? New Bill Says Its OK to Let Women Die

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RH Reality Check

Protecting Life? New Bill Says Its OK to Let Women Die

One hundred members of Congress (so far) have cosponsored a bill introduced by far right Congressman Joe Pitts (R-PA) called the "Protect Life Act." (Check here to see if yours is one of them.)

They want to "protect life" so much that they have written into the bill a new amendment that would override the requirement that emergency room doctors save every patient, regardless of status or ability to pay.  The law would carve out an exception for pregnant women; doctors and hospitals will be allowed to let pregnant women die if interventions to save them will kill the fetus.

Yesterday, according to a report by NARAL Pro-Choice America, lawmakers inserted the  new provision onto page six of H.R.358, a bill that is already jam-packed with misogynistic anti-choice and anti-woman provisions. 

According to the Congressional Research Service, HR 358:

  1. Amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to prohibit federal funds from being to used to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion services. (Currently, federal funds cannot be used for abortion services and plans receiving federal funds must keep federal funds segregated from any funds for abortion services.)
  2. Requires any qualified health benefit plan offered through an Exchange that includes coverage for abortions to also offer a qualified health benefit plan through the Exchange that is identical in every respect except that it does not cover abortions.
  3. Prohibits a federal agency or program and any state or local government that receives federal financial assistance under PPACA from requiring any health plan created or regulated under PPACA to discriminate against any institutional or individual health care entity based on the entity's refusal to undergo training in the performance of induced abortions, require or provide such training, or refer for such training.
  4. Creates a cause of action for any violations of the abortion provisions of PPACA. Gives federal courts jurisdiction to prevent and redress actual or threatened violations of such provisions by issuing any form of legal or equitable relief, including injunctions and orders preventing the disbursement of all or a portion of federal financial assistance until the prohibited conduct has ceased. Gives standing to institute an action to affected health care entities and the Attorney General.
  5. Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to designate the Director of the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to receive and investigate complaints alleging a violation of PPACA abortion provisions.
  6. Requires the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to ensure that no multistate qualified health plan offered in an Exchange provides coverage of abortion services.

But for good measure and just to make sure we all understood the deeply misogynistic underpinning of today's Republican party, the new language would allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortion care when necessary to save a woman's life.

"Anti-choice politicians have gone from redefining rape to denying abortion care to women who will die without it," Keenan said. "When it comes to attacking women's freedom and privacy, these politicians know no bounds. This debate is just getting started. Any member of Congress who has signed his or her name to this agenda must be held accountable for such extreme attacks against women's reproductive-health services."

This bill effectively turns all hospitals into arms of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  In other words, your health care is now fully subject to fundamentalist religious ideology.

The so-called Protect Life Act is one of a slew of pieces of legislation that seek to effectively ban abortion in the United States, establish personhood of fertilized eggs, and outlaw contraception.

In short: Fertilized eggs are people; women are not.

Jodi Jacobson

Jodi L. Jacobson is a long-time leader in the health and development community and an advocate with extensive experience in public health, gender equity, human rights, environment and demographic issues. She is currently Editor-in-Chief of RH Reality Check.

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