Health Care and the Healing of America

In the wake of the tragic shooting last week in Arizona, President
Obama called on all Americans to speak to one another "in a way that
heals, not a way that wounds." These words echo the physicians' credo --
"first do no harm." I welcome the president's call for healing and for
softening the harsh tone of our politics. We have a great need for
this in America today.

Unfortunately, even with the president's hopeful words still ringing
in our ears, the House leadership is moving forward with an agenda that
will harm American women. On Wednesday, they will bring up a vote to
repeal the health care law that is already expanding health care
coverage for the women of our country.

The politicians who took over the House of Representatives rode to
power on a wave of discontent over joblessness and financial worries.
But rather than focusing on the economy, they have made it their first
order of business to take health care away from our mothers, daughters,
sisters, and friends. And, sadly, the vote to repeal health care is
just the beginning.

These leaders are about to make life much less humane for millions of
Americans -- especially the women of this country. Yes, we want a new
civil tone, but we also want policies that respect women and deliver the
health care they and their families need and deserve.

Keep in mind that the new health care law represents the greatest
single advance for women's health in 45 years. It promises to make
health insurance available to millions of women, and it includes
measures to make primary health care -- including annual exams,
prevention, and reproductive care -- much more affordable. Most
importantly, it will deliver peace of mind to women whose health needs
are great but whose resources are few.

The new law will also deliver peace of mind to women who have been
sick before. It will end discriminatory practices such as routinely
charging women higher premiums than men, and denying coverage for
so-called "pre-existing" conditions such as breast cancer and, yes,

Health care reform also holds the promise of giving women access to
prescription birth control without co-pays or other out-of-pocket
payments. Making this policy a reality would enable women to choose the
method of contraception that works best for them, keep women and
children healthy, and reduce the number of unintended pregnancies.

Many American women have already begun to benefit from the initial
implementation of health care reform. And countless more stand to
benefit in the years to come. Repealing this law will hurt women and
families and make daily life less certain for them. In other words, it
will do harm.

But repealing the new health care law is only the first step for the
new leaders of the House. Soon after the repeal vote, they plan to move
forward with the Smith bill, which could effectively eliminate private
health insurance that includes abortion coverage, a benefit most women
with private health insurance have now. Thirty-eight years after Roe,
this would chip away at the ability of women to make the most private
and personal medical decisions. As if that were not enough,
conservative members of Congress, led by Representative Mike Pence, are
working to strip critical family planning funding from community
providers including Planned Parenthood. And they are threatening cuts
to vital maternal and child health programs, as well as programs
supporting health care in our farming and rural communities. Taken
together, all of these changes will take away the full range of services
from women -- from birth control to coverage for abortion.

Talk of civility and a new tone is welcome and deserves nothing but
praise. But when the health and peace of mind of our mothers, daughters
and sisters come up for a vote, let's remember that actions speak
louder than words.

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