The Obama Administration Takes A Page From Stupak’s Playbook


By Allie Bohm, ACLU Washington Legislative Office

Here we go again. After your phone calls, letters, e-mails, and meetings with your members of Congress, we were able to keep Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) draconian abortion coverage ban out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the new health care reform law.

But, late in the day on July 14 (have you ever noticed that the worst announcements always come late in the day?), the Obama administration inexplicably announced that it is bringing back Stupak in the high-risk pools required by the law. These high-risk pools, which are already in effect and which will exist until 2014, will allow people with pre-existing conditions who have been denied coverage on the individual market to purchase health insurance with a federal subsidy. But, they won’t be able to access abortion coverage except in the case of rape or incest or to save the pregnant woman’s life. There’s nothing in the new Health Care Reform law that requires this restriction and it is deeply disturbing that a pro-choice administration would voluntarily impose such an anti-choice measure.

What’s worse is that this new restriction affects the most vulnerable among us. Women participating in a high-risk insurance pool are, by definition, facing serious health issues and may have a special need for abortion. For example, because of the restriction, a woman with heart disease or diabetes might be compelled to carry a pregnancy to term despite its potentially damaging effect on her future health. Or, a woman diagnosed with cancer who needs an abortion before she can get treatment might be forced to dangerously delay care.

In fact, this ban is more restrictive than the abortion provision that will govern the exchanges once they are established: It does not allow states to choose to cover abortion, and it does not allow women in the pool to buy a comprehensive policy that covers abortion even though they will be contributing large amounts of their own money to the premium.

Are you angry yet? The Senate rejected Stupak. The House (finally, do-over-style) rejected Stupak. The public (that’s YOU!) overwhelmingly rejected Stupak. (Thanks!!) So why is President Obama bringing back this discredited and downright dangerous policy? Go to our Action Center and ask him.

And, while you’re at it, please let him know that while we’re relieved that this restriction ends in 2014, a lot of women are going to face unnecessary risks and burdensome costs in the next 3 1/2 years. Tell President Obama to lift this ban long before 2014 and ask him to ensure that a similar restriction is never again imposed. After all, health care reform should improve women’s health and lives, not interfere with their ability to get the health care they need.

Everyone’s circumstances and health care needs are different. And every woman should be able to decide what is best for her health and her family. By unnecessarily singling out abortion in the high-risk pools, the Obama administration is creating a needless barrier to comprehensive health care for the women who need it most. And, that’s not just anti-choice; it’s shameful.

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