The assault on women's reproductive rights continues with a vengeance. As Congress struggled to pass health care reform to improve the lives of America's families, anti-choice forces took advantage of the situation to mount yet another assault on abortion. They were willing to sacrifice health care reform -- even though millions of people would now be able to receive coverage, even though the bill would finally begin to lower health care costs, even though lives would be saved -- to enact anti-abortion provisions to take away reproductive rights from millions of women.
The effect of the Stupak/Pitts Amendment would be to deny the millions of women who get covered through the exchanges access to comprehensive reproductive health care that includes abortion services. These women would be denied coverage available today in private health plans. The Amendment effectively bans private insurance companies that participate in insurance exchanges from providing coverage of abortion. It tries to camouflage the impact by providing an "abortion rider" that women could choose to pay extra for to cover costs if they have an abortion.
How gullible do they think we are? Women don't expect to have an unintended pregnancy or a dangerous pregnancy that jeopardizes their health. And few if any insurance plans would actually choose to provide such a rider. Five states now have provisions to provide abortion riders. But folks have been trying to find a plan that actually provides one -- and they're still looking.
Make no mistake about it: the Stupak Amendment will deny millions of women access to safe, affordable reproductive health care. It puts an expensive price tag on women's ability to act on their reproductive rights. This outrageous provision must be stricken from the legislation before health care reform becomes law.
In 2008 the country elected a pro-choice Congress and a pro-choice president. The president has repeatedly told the country that health care reform would not take away benefits from those who currently have insurance. Now it's up to the President and the Congress to make certain that women do not lose their benefits or rights as a result of health care reform. There's no point in passing a health care reform bill that makes women less healthy, less safe and less able to exercise their constitutional rights.
Ellen R. Malcolm is the president of EMILY"s List, an organization that helps elect pro-choice Democratic women to office.