On the 42nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, which affirms a woman's Constitutional right to an abortion, House Republicans passed a far-reaching anti-choice bill that women's health advocates say would cause the entire insurance market to drop abortion coverage while raising taxes on small business who provide comprehensive health care to their employees.
After pulling a more extreme anti-abortion bill at the last minute due to intra-party dissent, the GOP on Thursday voted 242-179 in favor of alternative legislation sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) that restricts federal funds for abortion.
But according to women's health experts, it would do much more than that. In a press statement, NARAL Pro-Choice America outlined the shocking implications of the bill:
- It revives the failed Stupak-Pitts amendment to the [Affordable Care Act], effectively banning abortion coverage in the new health system, even for women in state insurance exchanges who use their own, private funds to pay for their insurance. Experts have stated this could also jeopardize the availability of private insurance coverage of abortion for all women in all private health plans nationwide.
- It imposes tax penalties on small businesses that choose private health plans that cover abortion care, with the goal of driving consumers away from these plans. (Absent political interference, 87 percent of private plans cover abortion services.)
- It permanently blocks abortion coverage for low-income women, civil servants, D.C. residents, and military women by recodifying anti-choice riders that reside elsewhere throughout federal law. Congress should be repealing these unfair and discriminatory abortion bans, not recodifying them.
- It bans coverage of abortion services for women insured by multi-state health plans under the ACA—private health-insurance plans which offer consumers a uniform array of health benefits in every state in which they operate.
- And it mandates health plans to make biased, one-sided "disclosures" of abortion coverage and force plans to mislead consumers about the health-care law's treatment of abortion coverage. (Note: these are terrible policy proposals, clearly designed to make unavailable abortion coverage in the private market. However, their inclusion in this bill is particularly perplexing; whether through drafting error or malintent, the provisions reference a section of the ACA that the bill also happens to repeal.)
"By passing a mean-spirited bill that takes abortion coverage away from millions of women, the House has shown it's totally out of touch with women's lives and health care," said Louise Melling, deputy legal director for the ACLU. "Politics shouldn't drive decisions about a woman's health or her insurance coverage. If Congress really cares about women, it will focus on expanding policies that support women and families, not on banning coverage of abortion in insurance."
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Other activists said the move was politically opportunistic—timed to coincide with the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.—and just as ideologically motivated as the more extreme bill Republicans withdrew on Wednesday night.
"Today's exercise in the House is not about making public policy, nor is it about helping American women and families," Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "It is about catering to a small minority of voters—anti-abortion activists who are descending on Washington for their annual march. It is nothing but a sad waste of time and waste of the faith that voters put in the Republican Party to come up with new solutions to actual problems in 2015."
Hogue continued: "On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, today's action in the House is a vivid reminder of the constant attack women are under from politicians who—unlike most Americans—refuse to trust us and allow us to control our own bodies and make our own decisions about our lives."
The measure has not been approved in the Senate. According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House indicated President Barack Obama would likely veto the bill if it reached his desk.