Women’s Groups Respond to Obama’s Ban on Abortion Coverage in High-Risk Insurance Pools


For an in-depth analysis and reporting on President Obama’s announcement on the exclusion of abortion coverage in temporary high-risk pools, read Jessica Arons post “Obama Administration Applies Stupak Amendment to High Risk Pools.”

Women’s health and rights advocacy groups responded immediately to yesterday’s announcement that President Obama would exclude abortion coverage from the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (the temporary high-risk insurance pools created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to transition us into the new health care plan). Obama has decided that women in these pools simply don’t need insurance coverage of abortion care even though there is nothing in the new law that dictates this.

From the ACLU press release on this:

Even using their own private funds, individuals would not be able to buy policies that cover abortion in these pools. The only exemptions would reportedly be for women who have been raped, who are the victims of incest or who will likely die if they carry the pregnancy to term.

What is perhaps most perplexing about this is that this plan was created to offer temporary insurance coverage to those who cannot afford coverage due to particulary serious health conditions. Women with serious health conditions may be some of the most affected by a pregnancy – the pregnancy may not cause her death but is a woman’s life of so little consequence that it matters not to President Obama if a pregnancy bears an immense burden on her already ill body? As NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Nancy Keenan puts it, “This policy means that women who are part of these pools because they have significant health problems, such as diabetes or cancer, will not be able to access abortion care, even if their health is at further risk.”

Planned Parenthood’s press release calls the rule “harmful to women”:

“The very women who need to purchase private health insurance in the new high-risk pools are likely to be more vulnerable to medically complicated pregnancies. It is truly harmful to these women that the administration may impose limits on how they use their own private dollars, limiting their health care options at a time when they need them most. This decision has no basis in the law and flies in the face of the intent of the high-risk pools that were meant to meet the medical needs of some of the most vulnerable women in this country.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights notes:

“Contrary to assertions by the White House, there’s no current legal basis for the policy. The executive order issued by the President on abortion only addressed rules for segregating funds for abortion coverage in the healthcare exchanges and limits on community health centers.  The Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan policy similarly furnishes no legal basis for exclusions in the new high risk pools.

“The proposal would not even permit policyholders to use their own private dollars to purchase coverage, as the Nelson compromise allows, and instead applies a Stupak-type ban like the one rejected by Congress.  Healthcare reform was a tightly bargained piece of legislation – and with this, the White House is threatening to renege on a fundamental part of its bargain with American women and families who truly need coverage.  Excluding abortion coverage from the high-risk insurance pools was not part of the negotiations during healthcare reform, and nothing in the bill compels this result.”

Kelli Conlin of the National Institute for Reproductive Health says:

Considering that the women in high-risk pools are already more vulnerable to medical complications it is outrageous that their coverage will not include – at the bare minimum – abortion care for health emergencies.    

This latest ban goes even further than the objectionable Nelson provision (which became law during health care reform) in that it does not give states the option of deciding to cover abortion nor does it allow a woman to buy abortion coverage . This is not acceptable.

We all know that many things can happen in pregnancy that are beyond even the healthiest woman’s control; coverage of abortion is an important part of ensuring that all women can access and afford the health care procedures they may need.

NARAL Pro-Choice America has started a letter writing campaign to urge President Obama not to exclude abortion coverage from the high-risk pools. 

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  • crowepps

    Thanks for alerting us to this bizarre decision, and for the link which might get it changed —

  • amie-newman

    I hope Obama understands how absolutely ill-advised his action is and how much it would hurt women.

  • beenthere72

    I got the NARAL email yesterday, but sadly my work blocks ‘abortion related’ websites (but not this one – yet!) for some odd reason (it also blocks gaming, sex ed, and many blog sites too – I miss my livejournal).   I need to take action on it at home.  Must remember this weekend before I go on vacation (Las Vegas, baby.   It’s going to be HOT!  I’ll miss you all!)