Yesterday, secure in the knowledge that he would have the necessary 60 votes to avoid a filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced his “manager’s amendment” to the Senate Health Reform bill, which included a huge betrayal of women.
Senator Reid, who himself opposes abortion rights, allowed anti-choice zealot Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska to dictate a new provision that severely restricts a womanâ€™s right to exercise her federally recognized right to abortion.
Senator Nelson also got an extra $45 million to fund Medicaid expansion in his home state. This extra is only for Nebraska.
The inclusion of this anti-choice amendment comes less than two weeks after you helped us defeat the Nelson-Hatch Amendment that mirrored the devastating Stupak-Pitts provision included in the House bill.
This new Nelson amendment is nothing less than a nightmare for women.
It includes an agreement to allow states to decide whether or not to offer abortion coverage in the state insurance exchanges that would be created by the legislation.
That provision would likely mean that in many conservative states, there would be no abortion coverage in the commercial insurance plans that would be sold to consumers through these state exchanges. (Please see below for more details on this amendment.)
We, the pro-choice community, stand together in the belief that women should not lose ground in the new health-care system. That is not health care reform.
As NOW president Terry Oâ€™Neil said, â€œRight-wing ideologues like Nelson and the Catholic Bishops may not understand this, but abortion is health care, and health care reform is not true reform if it denies women coverage for the full range of reproductive health services.â€
Although the Senate bill includes other provisions that stand to improve women’s access to reproductive-health services, the language of the Nelson amendment regarding abortion coverage comes at too great a price for reproductive health.
Remember this is not the end. The Senate will reconvene at 1 a.m. Monday for a procedural vote, with the final vote scheduled for Christmas Eve.
Then the Senate bill must be reconciled with the House bill.
What We Can Do
First, keep up the pressure on the Senate!
Get on the phone and call your Senators TODAY at 1-877-264-4226 OR 1-202-224-3121.
For Senator Schumer:
For Senator Gillibrand:
If you donâ€™t know who or where to call or email? Visit http://www.senate.gov/.
Let Your Senators Know:
1. You Vote and You Oppose the New Nelson Amendment;
2. The Senate bill already contained the abortion restrictions of current law, and the New Nelson amendment must go.
Next, Contact Your House Representatives!
Get on the phone and call your Representatives TODAY. They are back in their districts. You can also click here to find their contact information.
Let Them Know:
1. You Vote and You Oppose the New Nelson Amendment and the Stupak-Pitts Amendment;
2. The Capps Amendment already contained the abortion restrictions of current law, and the New Nelson amendment and Stupak-Pitts Amendments must go.
While you have their attention, ask your Senators and Representatives:
1. When did it become the right of individual states to pick and choose which federally recognized civil rights they will enforce and which ones they will ignore or obstruct?
2. What would they do if a state refused to enforce anti-Jim Crow legislation or desegregation laws?
3. States that only provide exchanges that do not include abortion are doing just that. They are picking and choosing!
Your House members are now home in their districts, and your Senators will be soon, as well. The holiday season is a good opportunity to drop by their district offices or call them. Demand that they stand strong against the new Nelson Amendment and the Stupak-Pitts amendment.
Details about the New Nelson Amendment
(from Raising Womenâ€™s Voices for the Health Care We Need)
â€œLegislative experts are still evaluating what the new language on abortion will mean in practice, but here are some bullets on what we think we know so far:
* States can choose to prohibit abortion coverage in the insurance exchanges they will be setting up. That would affect private plans offered through the exchange, and it would affect all women getting insurance through the exchange whether they receive subsidies or not.
* Federal funds cannot be used to pay for abortion services except as allowed by the appropriation for the Department of Health & Human Services. This is confirms that as long as the Hyde amendment restrictions — prohibiting use of federal funds to pay for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or threat of life to the mother — are in place, federal funds cannot be used to pay for abortion services in this health insurance plan either.
* Any person who enrolls in an insurance plan that covers abortion will have to make two separate payments â€“ one to pay for the cost of the abortion services in the plan and another for the rest of the services. Itâ€™s not a rider, but itâ€™s likely to create some of the same barriers that making abortion coverage available through riders would have. For example, people may be less likely to choose the plan that covers abortion, just as they would have gone without the abortion rider, because the separate payments will highlight their decision to buy abortion coverage, something they might like to keep private, and because they don’t anticipate needing the coverage.
* Insurance plans have to estimate the cost of abortion coverage and segregate the funds received to pay for that coverage. The estimate must not be less than $1 per enrollee, per month. State insurance commissioners must ensure that plans are complying with the requirement to segregate funds.
* Plans that cover abortion must provide consumers with notice of that coverage as part of the summary of benefits and coverage explanation, at the time of enrollment.
* When information is provided about plans in advertising or by the exchanges or by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, it will report the payments in a combined way, rather than dividing cost of the abortion coverage from that of other services.
* Health plans cannot discriminate against providers or facilities because theyâ€™re unwilling to provide abortion.
* No state laws are pre-empted by abortion provisions of the bill, and no federal laws on abortion will be affected either.â€
This Health Care Reform Process is a clear example of the importance of the election of only 100% pro-choice candidates to office.
In Congress and the New York State Senate anti-choice lawmakers still outnumber pro-choice leaders.
Choice Matters needs your help to change this.
We have made progress over the years, but in local elections we saw success by anti-choice forces with the election of a Right-to-Life County Executive and an anti-choice County Vice-Chair.
Support Choice Matters through contributions and volunteering. The battle over the 2010 elections has already begun!
Thank you for standing by your pro-choice convictions and supporting women’s access to abortion.