There is no question that reproductive health care has become a hot button issue in health care reform. This is very unfortunate. But despite the emotions and sensitivity surrounding the topic of abortion, lawmakers must not lose sight of the facts. Here are a few:
The Stupak-Pitts amendment goes well beyond the status quo and is in no way the simple extension of the Hyde amendment its proponents claim. It will result in a major step backwards for women's access to abortion, a legal medical procedure.
Proponents of Stupak-Pitts say that individuals purchasing health insurance plans in the Exchange without affordability credits can buy plans with abortion coverage. In reality, no insurance plan is going to go through the painstaking process of setting up two separate plans--one with abortion services offered and one without--to cater to less than 20% of the Exchange participants who are allowed to buy plans that include abortion services. As noted by Robert Laszewski, consultant to the insurance industry, in a recent interview with NPR, it wouldn't make any business sense to offer a plan that would only be available to such a small number of potential customers. The argument that this amendment won't restrict access for women who are paying for insurance entirely out of their own pockets is false.
The Hyde amendment prohibits federal funding for abortion in Medicaid programs except in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the women, but it allows states to use their own funds to pay for abortions in other cases. Applying this same principle, the Capps Amendment, would have prohibited federal funding to pay directly for abortions in insurance plans in the Exchange, but would allow plans to pay for these services using private funding from patient premiums. Just as churches and military contractors are able to segregate federal funds from other sources of funding, insurance companies can do the same.
My amendment is also consistent with federal tax policy which provides subsidies in the form of tax breaks to businesses to provide health insurance for their employees. It should be noted most Americans receive their health insurance from the traditional employer based system and most of those health insurance plans include coverage for abortions. It is my amendment, not the Stupak-Pitts amendment, which preserves the status quo of preventing federal funds from directly paying for abortion services without restricting access to this legal medical procedure.
There were Members of Congress and representatives of organizations opposed to abortion who were given a chance to review my amendment and offer their input before it was introduced. And because my amendment represented a true compromise on this challenging issue, both pro-choice and pro-life Members of the Energy & Commerce Committee joined me in support, rejecting the more extreme Stupak-Pitts Amendment.
I should also note that most of the Members of Congress and the groups who endorsed the Stupak-Pitts language continue to oppose health care reform. As Mr. Stupak has correctly pointed out, most anti-abortion groups opposed the Capps amendment, but what he left out was the fact that they also opposed passage of our health care reform legislation, even after the Stupak-Pitts amendment was added. In fact, the vast majority of Members who voted for the Stupak amendment opposed passage of H.R. 3962 even after this amendment was added.
At the end of the day, our goal is to pass meaningful health care reform legislation. We must not allow abortion opponents to use our health care reform process to drastically restrict a woman's access to a legal medical procedure and that's exactly what the Stupak-Pitts amendment does.
Congresswoman Lois Capps (CA-23) serves as a Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Prior to serving in Congress she worked for 20 years as a public school nurse and health advocate.