The House passed the historic Affordable Health Care Act (HR3962) for Women by a narrow margin (220-215) Saturday night with major gains for women including eliminating gender rating in insurance prices, banning pre-existing conditions, capping out of pocket expenses, expanding Medicaid to include individuals at 150% of the federal poverty level, improving Medicare by closing the donut hole on prescription drug coverage, no charge for preventive care, and stopping the practice of dropping coverage or capping coverage of sick people. Important provisions that advance the health needs of LGBT people were also included in the Act. Unequal taxation of domestic partner benefits was eliminated.
Women’s rights advocates, however, were delivered a major defeat Saturday night by passage of the outrageously restrictive anti-abortion Stupak amendment to the Affordable Health Care for America Act (HR 3962) by a 240-194 vote of the House of Representatives. The amendment, co-sponsored by Bart Stupak (D-MI), Joe Pitts (R-PA), Brad Ellsworth (D-IN), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), and Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA), bans abortion coverage for women in both the public option and private insurance. Under the guise of no federal funding for abortion in so-called keeping with Hyde Amendment restrictions, the Stupak Amendment goes way beyond Hyde. This amendment bans abortion coverage even if women pay for it with their own money in the public option or private plans in the insurance exchange.
“This is an outrageous denial of choice to women dictated by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and their army of lobbyists,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority. “Millions of poor and middle class women will be denied abortion coverage. Millions more may lose abortion coverage because currently some 85% of private plans now have such coverage. The Stupak amendment far from being abortion neutral is an unacceptable, giant step backward for women.”
The fight is far from over. “Pro-choice forces feel they have been had and area willing and able to step up pressure as the Act proceeds to the Senate, then to a House/Senate conference committee, and back to the Senate and House before final passage. There are many more pro-choice Democrats than anti-abortion ones,” observed Smeal.
Diana DeGette, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, reported to the press that she had collected 40 signatures of Pro-Choice House Democrats for a letter to leadership that they pledged they would oppose final passage if the Stupak amendment is not stripped from the bill before final passage. Pro-choice groups are determined to strip Stupak from the Act. Planned Parenthood of America Federation and the National Organization have announced they will oppose final passage if the amendment is not removed.
Read the full version of this press release here.