NYC Women Unite Against Stupak-Pitts Amendment

Yesterday I was proud to share the stage with several of New York City's top women leaders to speak out against the House health care bill's Stupak-Pitts amendment. It was incredibly inspiring to be joined by such women as Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Gloria Steinem, Speaker of the NY City Council, Christine Quinn, President of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, President of NARAL Pro-Choice NY, Kelli Conlin, and many others as we spoke with one voice against a measure that is surely the greatest attempt to roll back women's reproductive rights since Roe V Wade was decided in 1973.

While the passage of The Affordable Health Care for America Act through the House was a milestone worth celebrating, the Stupak-Pitts amendment attached to it is truly dangerous to women and girls. This measure goes beyond current law and limits womens' ability to purchase abortion coverage with their own money, disproportionately affecting low income women who are most likely to seek coverage through the exchange. It is simply an outrageous measure and I am committed to ensuring that any similar language is defeated in the Senate and is stripped from the final bill in conference.

I hope you will join with us to oppose Stupak-Pitts by making your voice heard. Please blog about this, tweet about it (you can follow me at @SenGillibrand) and e-mail all your friends and family about the importance of defeating this dangerous amendment.

For more on why I believe Stupak-Pitts must be defeated, below is video and the text of my remarks from yesterday's event.

Thanks for your continued advocacy.

This week the US Senate is set to begin debate on historic health care legislation to provide affordable, quality care to all Americans. As we begin this historic debate, we must commit ourselves to real health care reform that delivers equal health care for every single American.

Over a week ago, the House of Representatives passed a health care reform bill that delivers affordable, quality care, including a public plan that will bring competition to the market and drive down costs. However, there is one aspect of the House bill that is greatly concerning and moves us farther away from real health care reform: The Stupak-Pitts Amendment.

I am proud to stand here today with this broad coalition of important women leaders - doctors, businesswomen, teachers, public health experts, city, state, and federal elected officials and pro-choice leaders from Gloria Steinem, to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Council Speaker Quinn to NARAL, Planned Parenthood and so many others to speak out against this discriminatory and dangerous anti-choice provision and ensure that we defeat any similar measures in the Senate this week.

By banning reproductive coverage in all subsidized plans, the Stupak measure would likely prevent women from purchasing insurance with reproductive care even with their own money. This would put the health of millions of women and young girls at grave risk.

While proponents of the measure say this is a continuation of current federal law, this amendment will, in fact, bring about significant change and dramatically limit reproductive health care in this country. This is government invading the personal lives of many Americans, establishing for the first time restrictions on people who pay for their own private health insurance.

We all agree that it's important to reduce abortions in this country, and I will continue to work on many ways to reduce unintended pregnancies and to promote adoption. However, the Stupak amendment effectively bans reproductive coverage in all health insurance plans in the new system, whether they be public or private.

Proposing that women purchase a separate abortion rider is not only discriminatory, but ridiculous. It would require women to essentially plan for an event that occurs in the most unplanned and sometimes emergency situations.

There are currently five states that require a separate rider for abortion coverage, and in these five states it's nearly impossible to find such a private insurance policy. In one state, North Dakota, one insurance company holds 91 percent of the state's health insurance market and refuse toss even offer such a rider.

This anti-choice measure poses greater restriction on low-income women and those who are more likely to receive some kind of subsidy and less likely to be able to afford a supplemental insurance policy. Denying low-income women reproductive coverage in this way is discriminatory and dangerous.

Without proper coverage, women will be forced to postpone care, while attempting to find the money they need to pay for it. A delay that can lead to increased costs and graver health risks, particularly for younger girls. Or these women will be forced to return to dangerous, back alley providers.

In fact, this amendment represents the only place in the entire health care bill where the opponents are actually correct. It limits access to medical care by giving the government, not the patient or the doctor, the power to make medical decisions. The Senate bill already ensures that no federal tax dollars may be used to pay for reproductive services in any public or private insurance plan beyond cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. The House language goes far further and should be removed from the final bill.

Women and girls deserve better.

I will work with my colleagues in Congress and everyone here today to oppose any similar amendment in the Senate and fight to end disparities among race and gender in our health care system. Thank you.