While the subject has been covered before, it really doesn’t hurt to keep pointing it out. The Stupak amendment would result in a de facto ban on abortion coverage for millions of women.

Right now, 87% of normal employer-based plans cover abortion services. A large number of women with employer-based coverage – those that work in small businesses, the majority of American companies – will purchase coverage in the Exchange after reform. That means millions will lose the coverage they have now, and they will not be able to purchase the coverage if they want to, even with their own money. Why? Because no insurance company will offer abortion "riders," technically legal, one-service insurance coverage allowed under Stupak.

Five states (ND, KY, ID, OK, MO) have "rider" policies similar to language in the Stupak Amendment. No evidence has been found that such policies are available in those states. In North Dakota, for example, the major health insurance company, which has 91% of the market share in the state, does not offer abortion riders— rendering abortion coverage in the state unavailable.

All this adds up to a policy that harms women. It will increase the disparity in health care costs between men and women, and it will increase the disparity in health care access between women who can afford abortion services out of pocket and women who can’t.

If Stupak’s amendment is part of the final health reform bill, stories like this, from a federal worker who’s health plan, like all federal plans, doesn’t cover abortion by law, will be numerous:

Take D.J. Feldman, a 41-year-old federal employee from around Washington, DC. She became pregnant in 2008 with a baby she very much wanted. But three months later, her fetus was diagnosed with anencephaly, essentially a lack of most of the brain, skull, or scalp. Such profound defects prevent the affected babies from ever attaining consciousness; most are stillborn.

Feldman’s doctor told her she needed to end the pregnancy. "There was no doubt in her mind that this was medically necessary," Feldman said of her doctor’s advice. So Feldman went to a local hospital and had the abortion.

But six weeks later, she was shocked when she received letters from her insurance company, denying coverage for the procedure. "They surely couldn’t have expected me to carry a non-viable pregnancy to term," she said

She appealed the coverage denial, to no avail. "A few months later I got a letter back from my insurance carrier saying thank you very much. We saw that your baby was diagnosed with anencephaly. Our medical experts determined that you could have carried to term, because your life was not in danger. And by the way, you owe $9,000."

This is the future with the Stupak amendment. An unfair burden, a life-threatening cost, and a restriction of a basic right enshrined in the Constitution.

We’re trying to make good health care available to all in America. And health care reform will do a lot of wonderful things for women – for example, eliminate discriminatory pricing or denials for "pre-existing conditions" like domestic violence. The Stupak amendment goes directly against the spirit of reform, taking away from women right as they are gaining the health care they need. As such, it’s a tragedy.

(also posted at the NOW! blog)

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Jason Rosenbaum

Jason Rosenbaum

Writer, musician, activist. Currently consulting for Bill Halter for U.S. Senate and a fellow at the New Organizing Institute.

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