By Jeremy Los
“This bill is an unprecedented assault on women’s health care. For the first time, restrictions would be placed on how women with private insurance can spend their own dollars in purchasing health insurance.” – Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego)
May 31, 2011- Women’s rights are under siege as Republicans in control of the House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 3. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would sharply restrict access to abortion.
Championed by Rep. Christopher Smith (R- NJ), the bill passed the House with 251 "aye" votes, of which 235 were Republicans--including San Diego Republicans Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa. (Brian Bilbray (R-San Diego) abstained from voting, while local Democratic representatives Susan Davis and Bob Filner voted "no.")
The bill would restrict women's ability to obtain abortion coverage under the new healthcare reform laws. It would codify the Hyde amendment, originally passed in 1976 to exclude low-income women from coverage for abortions under Medicare.
According to the GOP’s website, “The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” will look to further prohibit federal funding for abortions by establishing a permanent government-wide prohibition on elective abortions.
The legislation does not prohibit individuals, entities, states, or localities from purchasing separate health care coverage that includes abortion, but if sought out the coverage cannot be paid for with federal funds nor could it be purchased using matching funds required for a federally subsidized program. As with Medicaid, the bill would allow three exceptions for abortions to be funded: rape, incest, or, if the mother’s life is at stake.
According to Credo Action, the bill will dramatically reduce the access to safe and legal abortions for women, as it will be virtually eliminating insurance coverage for abortions.
“The majority wants us to believe that this bill is solely about codifying existing law or just about taxpayer funding for abortion services,” said Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego) during her speech on the House floor. “But the extreme bill’s title belies its true intent – to go far beyond current law and comprehensively curtail women’s healthcare.”
Rep. Davis added, “This bill is an unprecedented assault on women’s health care. For the first time, restrictions would be placed on how women with private insurance can spend their own dollars in purchasing health insurance.”
According to the National Organization for Women, H.R. 3 would also impose tax penalties on employers and individuals whose private insurance policies happen to cover abortion care, potentially leading to IRS "abortion audits."
An earlier version of HR 3 also sought to narrow the definition of rape to "forcible" rape, eliminating coverage for youthful victims or statutory rape and many date rape victims, including those who were knocked out with date-rape drugs. However that language was removed after a public outcry.
“If you think this savage attack on women's health will stop with abortion, think again. Less than a month has passed since these same men nearly shut down the government to define contraception, pap smears and HIV screenings as equivalent to abortion care,” a statement on NOW’s website reads. “Women will continue fighting back because our lives depend on it.”
Proponents for the bill argue that this bill would save lives of the unborn, may reduce the number of abortions, and would trim more of the fat from the government’s “wasteful” spending.
According to Rep. Duncan Hunter, the federal government spent $1.3 billion on family planning services in 2010; a number that he said was expected to grow to $1.4 in 2011.
“I do not believe American tax dollars should be used to pay abortion providers nor should insurance agencies be mandated to cover such procedures,” said Hunter.
The battle over women's rights has evolved into a partisan divide. Republican-led states are also taking to the battle against the rights of women. Former 2012 Presidential hopeful Gov. Mitch Daniels recently made Illinois the first state to defund Planned Parenthood. States like North Carolina and Kansas are also looking into defunding the family planning organization.
In light of this assault new research shows that unplanned pregnancies are a financial burden on the Federal government, costing the American taxpayers upwards of $11 billion. Adam Sonfield, one of the studies authors, remarked, "At a time when policymakers everywhere are looking for ways to cut costs under Medicaid, these findings point clearly to a way to achieve that goal by expanding access to health care, not cutting it."
"We find that the potential public savings from preventing unintended pregnancy are enormous," said Adam Thomas, an author of the Brookings Institution's study, The Brookings Study found that taxpayers could save about $5.6 billion annually through efforts to prevent those pregnancies.
The bill will undoubtedly meet its demise in the Senate, where Democrats have a slim majority and it is unlikely to even make it to the floor for a vote. If it was to find its way to President Obama’s desk, the President has vowed to veto the bill.